When Gerrit Cole signed his nine-year, $324 mega-contract with the Yankees last offseason, pitching in games like Friday’s ALCS winner-take-all Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays was exactly the kind of high-pressure situation that he, the team, and the fans had in mind.
The 30-year-old right-hander will toe the rubber tonight at Petco Park on three-days rest following his Game 1 win, when he hurled six innings while allowing three earned runs with eight strikeouts.
With so much on the line on Friday’s game, Cole is perfect for the moment, so says his manager Aaron Boone.
“Gerrit Cole’s an animal,” Boone said on Friday afternoon. “I’m telling you, he can’t wait to get out there. Whatever happens tonight, he is absolutely cut out for this. I think he envisioned pitching in these kinds of games, no question about it. He envisions a lot of things.
“He is, as you guys very well know, very thoughtful, very mindful of the responsibility of being the ace of this staff and pitching for this organization, and I know he’s going to go out there and be locked in and put his best foot forward.”
And as for Cole taking the mound on shorter rest than his normal four days between starts, Boone expects his ace to be just fine on Friday, saying that there’s no set pitch count for his starter going into the game.
“I know he feels good, feels ready for this,” Boone said. “I’m just excited to watch him go compete in such a big spot.”
Cole and the Yankees will get things started against the Rays at 7:10 p.m., with a trip to the ALCS to face the Houston Astros on the line.