On any other day, Gerrit Cole’s lights out performance against the Diamondbacks Friday night in Arizona would have been the talk of the baseball world.
The Astros newest ace, who was acquired from the Pirates in a blockbuster offseason trade, carved up one of MLB’s most relentless lineups, throwing his first career complete game shutout in an 8-0 win. Along the way Cole allowed one hit and one walk, while striking out a career-high 16 batters.
Simply stated, he was dominant.
Unfortunately for Cole, this wasn’t any other night. His big performance was lost in the shuffle a bit thanks to Angels slugger Albert Pujols notching his 3,000th career hit and four Dodgers pitchers combining to throw the season’s second no-hitter. But Cole’s brilliance wasn’t completely lost on us. Especially since he continued racking up strikeouts at a ridiculous rate.
Through seven starts with the Astros, Cole is 3-1 with a 1.42 ERA. He’s allowed 26 hits and eight earned runs over 50.2 innings, while walking nine batters. All of those numbers are exceptional. But it’s the strikeouts that stand out.
Cole’s 16-strikeout performance Friday night raised his season total to 77.
That’s not only dominant, that’s a number no other pitcher has reached in his first seven games with a team.
Cole's 77 strikeouts are the most by a pitcher in his first 7 starts with a team in MLB history (previously Chris Sale, 73 in 2017).
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) May 5, 2018
Now check this out. In his first seven starts with Houston, Cole has already notched double-digit strikeouts five times. In 127 starts for Pittsburgh, he did it six times. Total.
As a standalone performance, Cole nearly broke the Astros single-game strikeout record. The outing tied Cole for second in Astros history, where he matched Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. Don Wilson once struck out 16 as well. Wilson also owns the franchise record after striking out 18 in a start against the Reds in 1968.
As Cole himself joked after Friday’s game, if we applied the five times he struck out at the plate to his total he would have broken every record in the book.
By no means was Cole dragging to the finish line either.
Gerrit Cole's fastest pitch of this season was the last pitch of his complete game… 99.3 MPH. Wow!
— Daren Willman (@darenw) May 5, 2018
This is the Gerrit Cole most people envisioned when he was selected No. 1 overall in 2011 MLB Draft. Now 27 years old, he’s finally reaching that potential in an Astros uniform.
Some credit undoubtedly goes to the Astros coaching staff, led by manager A.J. Hinch and pitching coach Brent Strom. If you want to throw some shade at those Cole worked under in Pittsburgh, we wouldn’t stop you. Cole himself has done that.
It’s up to Cole though to put everything together and execute. Right now, he’s doing that as well or better than any pitcher in MLB. It’s exciting to see if you’re an Astros fan or you simply love baseball. It’s also a scary reality for the rest of the league.
The Astros were already on their way to being the best team in baseball before they acquired Justin Verlander last season. His arrival in Texas gave Houston a formidable top three with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. Now they have four pitchers who could legitimately be considered aces. In the case of Cole and perhaps even McCullers, the arrow appears to be pointing up.
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