Yankees' Gerrit Cole 3rd-fastest pitcher to 2,000 strikeouts

NEW YORK -- Gerrit Cole entered rarefied air on Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles.

The New York Yankees ace recorded his 2,000th career strikeout in the second inning, becoming the third-fastest pitcher in games played to reach the mark.

Cole accomplished the feat in 278 games, behind only Randy Johnson (262 games) and Clayton Kershaw (277 games). Cole also became the third fastest to reach the mark in innings pitched (1,714⅔), trailing just Chris Sale (1,626 innings) and Pedro Martinez (1,711⅓ innings).

The historic punchout came on a 96.6 mph fastball on a 2-2 count against Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo.

Cole became the 88th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish the feat, including the seventh to do so wearing pinstripes. Among active pitchers on MLB rosters, Cole ranks seventh in career strikeouts behind Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Sale.

Cole, who allowed 5 runs on 6 hits against Baltimore, was pulled after giving up back-to-back singles to start the sixth. Terrin Vavra put the Orioles in front 5-4 with a bases-loaded groundout against Ron Marinaccio, and Baltimore's stingy bullpen held it there before Aaron Judge took Cole off the hook for his first loss in 11 starts this season.

Judge drove an 0-2 splitter from Félix Bautista over the left-field fence with one out in the ninth. It was Judge's 14th home run this season and eighth in his last nine games. The Yankees then scratched across the winning run in the 10th for a 6-5 victory.

"It's a pretty special accomplishment. I was pretty depressed about the whole thing, for the most part, until Judgie came through and picked us up," Cole said of the milestone. "Probably leaving the game tonight more excited about how we played as a team tonight as opposed to accomplishing that."

Cole has been one of the game's best pitchers this season, ranking first in bWAR while posting a 2.01 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, with 70 strikeouts in 67⅔ innings pitched.

Cole is currently in the fourth year of a nine-year, $324 million contract.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.