Gerrit Cole Gets the Best of Josh Donaldson

MINNEAPOLIS – Gerrit Cole stared briefly at Josh Donaldson, a player he deleted from each of his first two at-bats on Wednesday night.

Over the weekend, Donaldson, a third baseman of the Minnesota Twins, accused Cole, the ace of the Yankees rotation, of using sticky substances to increase the spin rate of his pitches to make them more effective. On Wednesday, Donaldson looked overwhelmed by the superstar pitcher he was accused of.

After his first strikeout, he had screamed in frustration after hitting a high-breaking ball. After the second, he said something to home plate referee Quinn Wolcott before walking away. On Donaldson’s third at-bat, as he flew to right field leading from the end of the sixth inning, Cole watched Donaldson jog to first base.

Again Donaldson didn’t look at Cole.

On a sultry night at Target Field, Cole had the final say, allowing two runs in six innings and beating nine in a 9-6 Yankees win.

The spin rates of Cole’s four-seam fastball and slider fell slightly below its season averages for the second year in a row, although its curve spun a little faster than normal, according to the website Baseball savant. But unlike his last start when he allowed a season high five run in a loss in Tampa Bay, Cole was effectively batting the Twins.

His speed had increased – his sixth pitch of the night for Donaldson exceeded 100 miles an hour – and the last-placed twins only managed five hits against him. Solo homers by Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano made the two runs that Cole allowed.

“I just thought he came out with tremendous focus, like he always does, blocking out all the noise, going out and running and pitching,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.

The tense matchup between pitcher and batter came four days after Donaldson wondered aloud to reporters if it was a coincidence that Cole’s spin rates fell after four minor league players were banned from playing 10 games for illegally using sticky substances on baseballs. (Cole attributed his poor performance to poor mechanics.)

Donaldson said Wednesday he had no regrets speaking out, adding he didn’t think Cole was the sole culprit.

“He was the first player to pitch since the suspensions, and he’s the first to see spin rates go down,” said Donaldson. “There were 12 guys whose spin rates went down in the last week. So it’s not just Gerrit Cole. “

Increased spin changes the plane and movement of the pitches, making them more difficult to hit. Throughout baseball history, pitchers have used various substances to better grip baseball, an illegal but often overlooked process. There is a growing belief that the recent dominance of pitchers can be attributed in part to the widespread use of substances like spider tack, a sticky paste that can allow pitchers to increase their spin rate dramatically.

Cole’s spin rates soared from 2017 to 2019 when he won a career high of 20 games with the Houston Astros. in the an awkward press conference on Tuesday, Cole didn’t want to answer if he’d ever used Spider Tack.

“I hesitated on the specificity of the question because I believe this is not the forum to discuss such things,” said Cole on Wednesday. “There is a reasonable time for the players to discuss these things. I’ll keep it on this forum. “

On Wednesday night, Cole’s fastball hit an average speed of 98.2 mph, just above his season average. He wasn’t going to give any added satisfaction in hitting Donaldson twice. Cole’s 113 strikeouts this season are the most to 13 starts in the club’s history, surpassing Al Downings 104 in 1963.

Cole, now 7-3, added that he didn’t speak to Donaldson about his comments.

“I see no need for it; I’m fine, ”he said. “But if he still has something to say, he can get in touch or whatever.”

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