New York Yankees' Gerrit Cole sharp in first start since contracting COVID-19

NEW YORK -- Ten or so days ago, Gerrit Cole was playing catch with his wife, Amy, hoping his body would bounce back from COVID-19 quickly enough for him to help the Yankees soon.

Unsure how much he had in the tank, Cole's first pitch Monday night to Shohei Ohtani was 99 mph. The rest were plenty good, too.

Cole pitched two-hit ball into the sixth inning and struck out nine in his return from the COVID-19 injured list, and Joey Gallo hit a two-run homer as New York beat the Los Angeles Angels 2-1.

New York has won 10 of 13 and pulled within two games of Boston for an AL wild-card spot. The Yankees open a three-game series against the rival Red Sox with a day-night doubleheader Tuesday.

Cole (11-6) went 5⅔ innings, the only damage against him coming on Justin Upton's homer in the first. The Yankees' ace walked just one batter and threw 90 pitches, reaching 100 mph in his first appearance since allowing eight runs to Tampa Bay on July 29.

"I was a bit prepared for if I didn't know where the balls were going to go,'' Cole said. "The plan was just to attack the strike zone in the first and go from there.''

The right-hander tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 3 and had mild symptoms, but showed no ill effects Monday. He said he felt good while on the mound, though fatigue was catching up to him after the game.

"He's an ace and he's great at what he does," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "He did a great job of managing himself.''

Zack Britton, Albert Abreu and Joely Rodriguez got the ball to Chad Green, who closed out the ninth for his fourth save. The bullpen had blown at least one lead in three of New York's past six games.

Ohtani was 0-for-4 after homering three times in three games at Yankee Stadium during the Angels' previous visit. His outs included a towering fly ball against Cole that left the bat at 109 mph and was caught on the warning track in the sixth.

"He makes you nervous every time he's in the box,'' Cole said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.