BOSTON — With the Yankees’ workout canceled on Monday due to bad weather at Fenway Park, Gerrit Cole was, for a time, the only Yankee on the field as he played catch in preparation for Tuesday’s wild-card matchup against the Red Sox.
“I think it’s just like, ‘Can we get it going already,’ you know?” Cole said of his mindset. “It’s like a bit of a waiting game, I think, which is good for the body, good for the mind to a certain extent to recover, but you’re chomping at the bit to get back out there.”
No one will play a more important role in whether the Yankees advance to play the Rays in the ALDS than the ace, who hasn’t pitched like one lately.
In his last three starts, the right-hander has allowed 15 runs in 17 ²/₃ innings for a 7.64 ERA.
The ill-timed bad streak comes after he left a start on Sept. 7 with a tight hamstring.
Cole said Tuesday his hamstring is “good.”
The Yankees’ season is riding on it.
Cole has had almost as crazy a season as the Yankees have, with a 1.78 ERA through the end of May before a nightmarish six-start stretch in which he had a 5.24 ERA when MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances became a talking point.
Asked about how he’s dealt with the new regulations, Cole said: “Just make the adjustment along the way and I guess not think about it. You know, it is the landscape that we play in, so you’ve just got to go and execute pitches.”
There have been other wild swings during the season, including an excellent showing after his return from the COVID injured list before the hamstring tightness popped up.
It’s all led to a must-win game for Cole and the Yankees against their rivals on Tuesday at Fenway, where Cole pitched five shutout innings before he allowed a three-run homer to Rafael Devers on Sept. 24.
He followed up that outing by giving up five runs in six innings in a critical game in Toronto on Sept. 29.
The Yankees bought Cole an extra day of rest by beating the Rays on Sunday, which meant they avoided a potential Game 163 on Monday — a game Cole almost certainly would have started.
Now, it’s up to Cole to deliver.
“I think I’m just going to have to be on top of my game,’’ Cole said. “[I’m] going to have to locate pitches in big spots. I think, you know, some poor location to some really good hitters got us in a bit of a hole early. So it’s going to be a similar situation. [The Red Sox] have got a lot of good hitters and … we’re going to have to make pitches in those situations in order to be successful.’’
His catcher, Kyle Higashioka, said he has “no doubt’’ Cole will live up to expectations.
“Everybody believes he’s going to step up and bring his best game,’’ Higashioka said. “He’s preparing mentally right now as we speak. And I’m preparing, the whole team’s preparing. It takes everyone. It’s not just going to be him out there. It’s going to be nine of us plus everyone on the bench, and we are going to have to all play a part.”
True, but Cole was signed as the game’s highest-paid pitcher for this moment.
“He’s a guy that rises to the occasion,” Higashioka said. “So I’m not really too worried about him.”
The Yankees would like Cole to be their ultimate weapon, not the least of their worries.
But in this topsy-turvy Yankees season, perhaps it’s fitting there’s no certainty even when it comes to Cole against their archrivals.
And Cole is waiting for his opportunity.
“You know, you’re dreaming about putting yourself in that position … coming through for your team,” Cole said. “And here we are.”