Aaron Judge pinched the front of his uniform jersey during his third-inning home run trot, seemingly mimicking a gesture that Jose Altuve made after his pennant-winning blast two years ago. By the end of the night, Gerrit Cole had made an even more convincing statement.
Cole bounced back from a pair of disastrous outings to fire nine dominant innings in his return to Minute Maid Park, striking out 12 in the Yankees’ 1-0 victory over the Astros on Saturday. New York improved to 4-1 against the Astros this season, holding a chance to sweep into the All-Star break.
Judge’s 419-foot drive off Houston starter Zack Greinke comprised the Bombers’ offense, marking the All-Star outfielder’s team-leading 21st homer. While Greinke worked four innings before yielding to the bullpen, Cole was cruising deep into the Texas evening, touching 99 mph several times in the ninth.
Having permitted 10 runs (nine earned) over his previous two starts against the Red Sox and Mets, struggles that coincided with Major League Baseball’s crackdown on pitcher use of sticky substances, Cole returned to form against the club with whom he made All-Star appearances in 2018 and ’19.
Houston didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth inning and was held hitless into the fifth. Abraham Toro’s stolen base in that frame marked the Astros’ only runner in scoring position against Cole, who scattered three hits and walked two while throwing a season-high 129 pitches.