Cole outduels Bieber in ace matchup as Yankees edge Indians

USA Today Sports Images
0 Comments

CLEVELAND — The marquee pitching matchup met high expectations. And as usual, Gerrit Cole exceeded them for the Yankees.

“He answered the bell again,” New York manager Aaron Boone said.

Cole was one pitch better than Shane Bieber in a heavyweight matchup of two of baseball’s best and Rougned Odor and Aaron Hicks homered off Cleveland’s Cy Young winner in the fifth inning, giving New York a 2-1 win over the Indians on Saturday.

Cole (3-1) struck out 11 and allowed just three hits in seven innings – he retired the final 11 batters he faced – to beat Bieber (2-2) in a rematch of their meeting in last year’s playoffs. Cole’s 50 strikeouts in his first five starts are the most for any pitcher in New York’s storied history.

“He was terrific in obviously a game where we needed him to be really, really good,” Boone said. “Really strong outing by our ace.”

Bieber fanned nine – the first time he hasn’t reached double digits in five starts – and tied Hall of Famer Randy Johnson’s record with his 17th straight start of at least eight strikeouts.

The 25-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits, but two were homers while throwing a career-high 119 pitches.

“I thought he pitched his heart out,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He gave up two solo homers in the fifth, one on the fastball he didn’t locate, another one on a changeup. That was pretty good hitting. But I mean, he fought his command at times, especially early, but he competed so much and golly, that was a pretty damn good effort.”

After Cole was pulled following his 111th pitch, Justin Wilson got two outs in the eighth. With closer Aroldis Chapman unavailable after pitching three times in four days, Jonathan Loaisiga came on and finished up for his first career save.

New York’s bullpen has pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the series.

The Yankees won their third straight in the four-game series after stumbling into Progressive Field with the AL’s worst record.

Two of the game’s premiere right-handers, Cole and Bieber traded pitch for pitch, strike for strike and strikeout for strikeout over seven innings.

Boone didn’t detect any extra fire in Cole even though he was facing Bieber.

“He’s locked in on the days he’s not pitching,” Boone said.

With the two All-Stars on top of their games, one run might have been enough and the Indians pushed one across in the fourth on Eddie Rosario‘s soft RBI single.

Rosario’s hit scored Jose Ramirez, who tripled off Cole and nearly had a home run if not for right fielder Aaron Judge leaping at the wall and knocking his deep drive back onto the field.

“It was supposed to be a back-door curveball, left it up and it kind of fluttered,” Cole said. “Jose was all over it, maybe got under it just a tick and I was thankful Aaron was able to pull it back in and we were able to minimize after that.”

Bieber’s slim lead was short-lived.

After striking out in his first at-bat, Hicks led off the fifth by driving a 1-2 pitch over the wall in right-center for his second homer in two days and third this season to tie it 1-1.

Bieber struck out the next two batters before Odor, who hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the series opener and one of four Yankees homers on Friday night, sent a pitch 426 feet into the center-field bullpen.

“Frustrating,” Bieber said of the homers. “It’s not what you want to do. That is not the way you want to execute a game plan or just finish a game. Anytime you get a lead, you obviously don’t plan on giving it up.”

Bieber was hoping to avoid the same fate as his matchup with Cole last September, when the Yankees battered the eventual Cy Young winner in Game 1 of the wild-card round opener for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings as New York won 12-3.

That outing stuck with Bieber over the winter, fueling him.

“A sour taste,” he said Friday.

It lingers.

YANKKKs

New York pitchers have recorded 217 strikeouts, the club’s most in franchise history through 20 games. The Yankees surpassed the 214 set by the 2018 club.

STANTON’S SCREAMERS

The two homers hit by Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Friday had respective exit velocities of 118 mph and 115.7 mph. He’s the first player n the Statcast era (since 2015) to record to multiple home runs with velocities of at least 115 mph in the same game.

Exit velocity has become a trendy stat, and Francona understands why fans are fascinated in it. He said it’s not indicative of who may be “the most complete hitter” and mentioned DJ LeMahieu, Ramirez and Jose Altuve as examples of players who hit the ball hard to all fields.

“It certainly isn’t the end all to be all,” he said.

UP NEXT

Yankees RHP Jameson Taillon (0-1) starts the series finale against Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie (0-0).

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

atlanta braves
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
7 Comments

ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.