It’s five games. It’s five games where Gerrit Cole has started twice. Those are five games, the last two against the Orioles, whose only reason for existence may be to pump the Yankees’ confidence and record.
But have you noticed that the Yankees’ pitching through five games has been brilliant?
The Yankees pitcher would have a 25-inning fruitless streak when you read that sentence if they had a shortstop. But they have Gleyber Torres, who defensively leads the big ones in nonchalance. He indifferently turned what should have been the last of the game, a routine grounding, into a Ryan Mountcastle infield “single”. Rio Ruiz followed with a two-run homer out of Lucas Luetge and rather than beat the Orioles 7-0 for another straight game the Yankees won 7-2.
Even with the gifted two runs, the Yankees̵
“Everything worked for him,” Kyle Higashioka said.
Cole hit 13 in addition to seven shutout innings as the Yanks beat the Orioles for the 12th time in a row in the Bronx and for the 26th time in the last 30 games overall. Righty was accurate and overwhelming with his fastball, topping in triple digits. His shooter was a knockout blow. And his growing confidence in and use of his upbringing has yielded more weapons, especially against left-leaning hitters.
Still, the question for the 2021 Yankees would never be about the ace. The concern was the rest of the rotation and a bullpen that began the year with Zack Britton and Justin Wilson injured. But through five games – again only five games – the staff has not allowed more than three runs in a game.
“I think we have good pitchers first and foremost,” said Aaron Boone. “I felt like going to spring training. I felt that our 13-20 competing for the last places on a list was definitely as deep as since I have been here. I wish all our guys had good strong springs and built up well. And I feel like throwing well across the board. ”
An inspiration from the spring was Jameson Taillon, who is currently the only member of the Yankee to open 26-man not to play. That changes Wednesday when the 29-year-old takes the ball in a game that counts for the first time in 707 days; for the first time since his second Tommy John operation.
So much of this Yankees season is about what non-Cole starters have to offer, especially the quartet that has barely beaten the last two years: Taillon, German, Corey Kluber and finally hopeful Yankees, Luis Severino. Boone called it: “The million-dollar issue throughout Major League Baseball this year.” Who can stay healthy and endure after a shortened or absent workload in the 60-game season of the 2020 pandemic. For the Yanks, the mystery is deepened due to the lack of innings for two years for so many key throws.
The mystery of Taillon goes a little further – is there still a significant career for him? When well enough was the second choice in the 2010 draft, Taillon dreamed of accumulating 100 WAR (10 pitcher ever did) and winning 20 games 15 even years. But he had Tommy John surgery, then testicular cancer and needed another Tommy John surgery.
The last one came after the Pirates had traded their aces after the 2018 season. It was Cole. It was supposed to be Taillon’s turn to become No. 1 in 2019. But he only started seven starts. He tried to avoid the second operation, knowing the likelihood of returning from a repeat procedure. He called it the “lowest point” of his career.
Which brings greater resonance and meaning to what arrives Wednesday.
“More than anything else, I think it will sound cheesy, I’m excited to be a part of the Yankees and go out on the Yankee Stadium hill and get to work,” Taillon said. “I am ready to place the rehabilitation earlier. I am ready to contribute to this team and compete and take the ball every five days. ”
What he wants to be these days is Charlie Morton. Taillon attended spring training with Morton when both were pirates, and Morton was still a frustration over injuries and talent that had not been met. But over the last five years, beginning with his age of 33, Morton has been an elite starter who learned to better prepare his body and use his stuff. As a 29-year-old, Taillon said, “I feel like there’s a lot ahead of me.”
One hundred wars may be gone. But Taillon will try to keep the Yankees’ good pitching vibes going and take step 1 again to prove that a significant career is still possible.