Gerrit Cole injury means its time for Yankees fan to panic

Gerrit Cole made a half-hearted attempt to field the throw to the plate, and then pointed to the home dugout with his index finger and gestured for help. Cole looked down at the grass and then back into the dugout, just in case his manager missed his first SOS.

You want your ace to do a lot of things in the final month of the season with a playoff berth on the line.

Asking the trainer to come out in the fourth inning is not one of them.

The Yankee Stadium fans were stunned when Aaron Boone headed for the mound while a trainer jogged past him. While they held a conversation with Cole, the crowd of 30,000-plus held its collective breath. The ace spoke with his glove over his face, surrounded by his infielders, and then he reached over and handed the ball to Boone, who didn’t seem terribly interested in taking it.

Left hamstring tightness they would announce in the press box. Yankee fans everywhere suddenly felt more than a little faint.

The Yankees were losing to Toronto, 3-1, when Cole exited stage left, and they went quietly into the night from there, wrapping up things in just under three hours — as if they had a late dinner reservation to make. Boone noted the Blue Jays’ pitchers didn’t face much resistance in the second half of the game, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he let his hitters hear about it afterward.

The 5-1 final score marked his team’s eighth defeat in 10 games. When situations turn this dire, cooler heads usually implore those around them to keep their composure.

New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole #45 pulled in the fourth inning with some sort of injury
Don’t let anyone Gerrit Cole’s injury — it’s a big problem.
Robert Sabo

Don’t listen to them, Yankees fans. It is very much time to panic.

Boone benched Joey Gallo and Gleyber Torres, and still the offense didn’t rise from the crypt. Now what?

The manager said there was no MRI exam scheduled for Cole, and that his guy felt “pretty optimistic” about fighting through the kind of hamstring tightness he’s fought through before — even this season — to make his next start. In his postgame presser, Cole sounded more cautious, saying he wanted to “reserve judgment” on the injury for a day or two and that he was “going to be smart about it.”

Cole puts an awful lot of stress on that left leg when he launches a fastball approaching 100 miles per hour, so who knows if he can recover in time to pitch Sunday against the Mets? Who knows if the Yankees can recover from all this losing to hold on to either of the two wild cards over the final 24 games?

Cole was not himself pretty much from the start Tuesday night, as the explosive Toronto offense made him look mortal. Steven Matz out-pitched him; Cole was even called for a balk. He was overdue for an off night, even though the Yankees were desperate for him to throw the ball like he did last week in Anaheim. The injury made this whole post-Labor Day experience a complete bummer.

And here’s the scary part: Cole had been performing at a championship level, and too many of his teammates had not. On the subject of his nine-year, $324 million contract, the ace has lived up to his end of the “bargain” more than the Yankees have lived up to theirs.

The Yankees have rarely looked like a credible championship contender in Cole’s time with them. They went 33-27 in last year’s pandemic-shortened season, and lost to Tampa Bay in the Division Series. This year, despite their longest winning streak in 60 years (13), the Yankees have been inconsistent enough for the better part of five months to fall 9 ¹/₂ games behind the Rays, and to plunge into a mad wild-card scramble made perilous by the rampaging Blue Jays.

Meanwhile, Cole entered Tuesday night with a combined Yankees record of 23-9, including 2-0 in the postseason, and as a front-runner (along with Toronto’s Robbie Ray) for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. He led the majors with an average of 12.48 strikeouts per nine innings, and his 215 strikeouts were more than any Yankee pitcher ever recorded over his first 25 starts in a season. Cole led the AL in victories (14), and in his four previous starts since coming off the COVID-19 list, he went 4-0 and gave up two runs over 24 ²/₃ innings while striking out 39 and walking four.

But then Cole motioned to the dugout for help Tuesday night, when the Yankees might have lost something more important than a meaningful September game. They might have lost their best player, and their most dangerous October weapon, for a start they can’t afford him to miss.

This is no time to keep your cool, Yankee fans. Feel free to panic. 


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