Cole induced 32 swings and misses, his regular-season career high, striking out 15 batters over seven innings Wednesday night. Cole's 15 strikeouts, one short of his career high, tied him with the New York Mets' Jacob deGrom for the most strikeouts through seven innings of a game by any pitcher this season.
"Dominant," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said in describing Cole's start. "He's obviously had some really good ones in his career, and certainly with us the last two seasons; that for me was up there. That was a guy in control, a step ahead of those guys all day; his fastball was as good as it's been all year."
"Just complete domination," echoed All-Star outfielder Aaron Judge. "That's what we needed out of our ace today, especially after the last couple of games falling short, especially after a long streak and doing so well and the last four games not getting the job done. He's our guy. So we want him on the mound in any situation when we need to come out with a win. And he showed it tonight."
Judge, who went 2-for-3 and hit his 30th home run of the season, said that Cole's performance was a reminder of how grateful they are to have him wearing the Yankees' road grays. Cole set a franchise record for most strikeouts through his first 25 starts with 215, surpassing David Cone's previous mark of 207 set in 1997.
"The first game I was thinking about that he was talking with the Dodgers, Anaheim, a couple other teams. ... Thank goodness he's wearing an away jersey right now, not the white and red jersey. Just a guy that could change a team; change a franchise," Judge said.
Cole had exceptional command of all his pitches, particularly his four-seam fastball, and did not issue a single walk. Only two other Yankees pitchers have had 15-plus-strikeout games without issuing a single base on balls, Michael Pineda in 2015 and Masahiro Tanaka in 2017. It was Cole's third career game with 15 or more strikeouts, third most among active pitchers behind Chris Sale (four) and Max Scherzer (six).
Cole struck out Shohei Ohtani in three at-bats, all on four-seam, 98 mph-plus fastballs, becoming the first pitcher to strike out the two-way superstar on four-seam fastballs in a game.
"Obviously, it was just an unbelievable game, but it's kind of bordering on what we expect from him every time now. He's that good," said Kyle Higashioka, who has become Cole's personal catcher. "Shohei is a special player. He's arguably the most exciting player in the game right now. And I think Gerrit definitely rose to the occasion, brought his best stuff and did what we all know he could do."
A product of Orange Lutheran High School, located less than five miles from Angel Stadium, Cole had an extensive group of friends and family present at "The Big A" for New York's road-trip finale.
"It's a special day. It's always a nice time to come out, see some people back where you're from," Cole said in describing pitching back home for the first time, in front of fans, wearing a Yankees uniform. "This was the last game [of] a road trip, fighting to stay over .500 for the trip, so there's a little bit of intensity there. Not trying to get swept, on the road, is kind of a big deal. And to do it in front of the family is just like a little cherry on top."
The Yankees finished their nine-game swing 5-4 and walked into the clubhouse two games ahead of the Boston Red Sox for the first American League wild card, and seven games behind the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox outlasted the Rays 3-2 on Wednesday night in St. Petersburg, Florida.
New York, meanwhile, improved to 22-8 since the start of August and 31-13 since the All-Star break.