Gerrit Cole struck out 12 over eight stellar innings, Aaron Hicks had a sacrifice fly and the New York Yankees conquer the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 on Wednesday night amid a coronavirus epidemic that sidelined shortstop Gleyber Torres.
Cole (5-1) scattered four hits and has five starts this season of 10 or more strikeouts and no walks to break Mike Mussina’s single-season team record set in 2001. He struck out all 3 batters in his final inning, such as Brett Phillips on a 98 mph fastball to end the inning.
“He is so nice and so much fun to see,” New York director Aaron Boone said. “It was just a lot of fun to watch him function tonight, and really predominate. He’s an ace. He’s a bulldog.”
Aroldis Chapman completed the four-hitter to get his ninth save as New York won consecutive games, including postseason, contrary to the Rays for the first time since July 16-18, 2019.
COVID-19 protocols impacted the Yankees for the second consecutive day. Torres was kept out of the starting lineup as a precaution as the amount of confirmed positive COVID-19 tests among the team’s trainer and support staff reached seven.
Boone had no upgrade on Torres’ status after the game.
“Anytime we get to play right now it’s like a nice release,” Cole explained. “It is the only thing we have to concentrate on is playing. We have got to concentrate on winning the match, therefore we take our minds off everything that’s happened over the last couple of times and get to take a break from it.”
Boone said there were a range of test results pending. Pitching coach Matt Blake joined third base coach Phil Nevin and first base coach Reggie Willits as members of the training staff testing positive.
Six of the seven are asymptomatic. All are completely vaccinated, which Boone said was blunting the effects of the virus.
Cole has struck out 56 since his last walk on Apr. 12, linking Curt Schilling from May to June 2002 to its longest such streak in a season since at least 1961, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“The man is super,” Rays manager Kevin Cash explained. “He was likely, tonight, beyond and above. He had everything working the way he wanted.”
Cole was 0-4 in eight previous regular-season begins against the Rays. However, he is 3-0 in four playoff outings.
This was the Yankees’ first 1-0 win since Masahiro Tanaka and Chapman united on a four-hitter on Aug. 11, 2019 in Toronto.
Cole hasn’t given a walk up and gone at least six innings in each of his past five starts, which ties Fritz Peterson (1971) for its second-longest such stretch in Yankees history. Just David Wells’ six-game series from Sept. 6, 2002 to Apr. 10, 2003 is more.
The right-hander, that has walked just 3 batters this year, has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 12 straight starts, the maximum stretch by a Yankees starter excluding openers since Whitey Ford’s 12-game run in 1963.
Jeffrey Springs substituted Ryan Thompson (2-2) with runners on second and third with one out in the seventh and gave up Hicks’ sacrifice fly.
Yankees left fielder Clint Frazier was ejected by plate umpire Bill Miller in the fifth for arguing after taking a called third strike.
Aaron Judge had three of New York’s six strikes.
Tampa Bay dropped to 7-12 at home this season. The Rays have scored one or fewer runs nine times complete.
Tampa Bay’s Austin Meadows had a strange double in the first inning when he hit a towering fly right off Cole that struck an overhanging catwalk and landed back toward the infield.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery) had his first live batting clinic postponed to Thursday due to stiffness. … Hicks (bruised right shin) started after missing one game.
Rays: 1B Ji-Man Choi (right knee arthroscopic surgery) rejoined the group from a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Durham as planned but is undergoing soreness. “I think this is only a minor thing and that there’s a chance he has triggered shortly,” Cash said. “In case it doesn’t go away then we are going to have to revisit.” … Closer Diego Castillo (right groin tightness) could return on Friday.
Yankees RHP Jameson Taillon (1-2) will go against Rays LHP Rich Hill (1-1) from the series finale Thursday night.