Yankees' Gerrit Cole on Wild Card Game start vs. Red Sox: 'I’m just gonna have to be top of my game'

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Gerrit Cole throws pitch vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park in grey uniform
Gerrit Cole throws pitch vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park in grey uniform

Gerrit Cole will be facing his second win-or-go-home start as a Yankee on Tuesday night, but this time it's against their most heated rival in enemy territory.

But being the ace that he is, Cole wants it to be Monday night instead of waiting another 24 hours.

“I think it’s just like ‘Can we get it going already,’ you know? Bit of a waiting game, which I think is good for the body, good for the mind to a certain extent to recover. But you’re chomping at the bit to get back out there. Excited for the challenge ahead of us," he told reporters on Monday.

Last season, it was Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, which resulted in an admirable effort by Cole but Tampa moved on and the Yanks packed their stuff.

No one in the Bombers' clubhouse wants to go home, especially if that means losing to the Boston Red Sox on their home turf in a stadium that is expected to be as raucous as one can think. Cole understands what's at stake and what must be done on his end to make sure that crowd has as little spirit as possible.

Playoff Cole production on the bump is imperative, but that hasn't been seen of late leading up to this crucial outing.

It all began with a terrible start against the Cleveland Indians, where Cole yielded seven earned on 10 hits. Then, while it was a better performance last time out in Boston on Sept. 24, he still gave up three runs in six innings with a homer and three walks on his line.

His latest start against the Toronto Blue Jays was worse, as their hot bats smacked him for two more homers and five earned over six.

“I think I’m just gonna have to be top of my game," he explained about his latest start against the Jays. "I’m gonna have to locate pitches in big spots. I think some poor location to some really good hitters got us in a little bit of a hole early. It’s going to be a similar situation. [Boston has] a lot of good hitters and we’re going to have to make pitches in those situations in order to be successful. Whether that’s making sure you nail the delivery or being in the right mindset to execute the pitch, that’s what we’ve been working on this week and looking to bring it out tomorrow.”

Manager Aaron Boone has been on the front step of the dugout for each of Cole's last few starts, and though the results on the stat sheet don't say so, he believes his ace isn't too far off what he normally expects when he gives him the ball.

"I think the stuff is there," Boone said. "I think going back to the Cleveland game where he struggled, I think he struggled way less than the line suggested. I think in Toronto the other day, they banged him for a couple home runs on a couple of just-miss heaters. I think everything’s there for him to put it together tomorrow. It’s just about executing in the right quadrants against a good team.”

In a game that’s expected to be very tight, one false move by either pitcher – Nathan Eovaldi gets the pill for Boston, someone Cole said has 'magic' when he pitches – could determine who moves on in the postseason. Again, both pitchers understand the stakes, especially Cole who has been in this spot numerous times in his career thus far.

But the preparation is being done with Kyle Higashioka, who will catch him once again, and that’s that. Once the Yanks take the field, it’ll be another fine chapter to write of this century-long rivalry.

One that Cole is honored to be a part of.

“What a fantastic game to watch,” he said about the Yankees-Sox rivalry. “You’re dreaming about putting yourself in that position obviously coming through for your team. So, here we are. It’s pretty much been I think what I’ve expected.

“Fenway’s been rocking this whole year every single time we come. The atmosphere is unbelievable, and we’ve been playing each other tight all year."