Just when it appeared Justin Verlander had seized control of the American League Cy Young race, teammate Gerrit Cole remained on his heels by serving up a dominating performance of his own Monday afternoon.
One day after Verlander spun his third career no-hitter, Cole dazzled for six innings at Miller Park, striking out 14 batters and allowing one run and three hits as the Astros reached 90 wins by using a 10th-inning homer by George Springer to beat the Brewers, 3-2, at Miller Park.
“It’s nice to run alongside of him, that’s for sure,” Cole said of Verlander.
According to Elias, the Astros are the first team to have pitchers with at least 14 strikeouts in consecutive games since the mound was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893.
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“Those guys, 1-2 punch, are really tough,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “We have a ton of confidence when [Cole is] pitching. We know we’re going to be in the game, we know we’re going to miss bats. His competitive fire is really second to none. He knows what he’s doing out there and when he’s in control of the game, he’s completely dominant.”
Cole remained unbeaten in his last 17 starts (2.03 ERA) and was in line for his 12th consecutive win before Christian Yelich took closer Roberto Osuna deep on an 0-2 pitch for a game-tying homer to start the ninth inning. Still, Cole extended his club record with his 16th double-digit strikeout game of the season while passing Verlander for the Major League lead with 266 strikeouts.
“Definitely a well-pitched game,” Yelich said. “Gerrit was doing what he’s been doing all year. [Brewers starter Adrian] Houser was able to match him and we were able to battle back there. We just couldn’t push that last one across.”
Cole has struck out 12 batters in each of his last three starts, becoming the first pitcher to do that since Cleveland’s Corey Kluber in 2017. He’s also the first pitcher in Astros history with at least three 14-strikeout games in a season and the only one to do it in consecutive starts.
“Just keep trying to focus on the things I can control,” he said. “Some of the numbers are kind of special but it’s something to be celebrating when all the work is done. Right now, I just have a few things I want to stay focused on and continue to prepare well for the postseason.”
Cole threw 105 pitches in his fastball-heavy outing, including a 100.2 mph heater that Ryan Braun fouled off on Cole's second-to-last pitch. His biggest strikeout of the game, though, came an inning earlier when he struck out Yasmani Grandal with the bases loaded.
“Just try to not let him get a hit and he chased a slider up,” Cole said. “Got fortunate there.”
Yordan Alvarez broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning when he launched a solo homer to left field. It was his 22nd homer of the season, tying Carlos Correa’s single-season franchise rookie record set in 2015. Alvarez has 63 RBIs in 66 games in the big leagues and remains the clear front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year.
After the game, Cole tipped his cap to Josh James, the hard-throwing reliever who struck out Yelich and Hernan Perez in succession to strand the tying run on base and end the game for his first career save. James was making his first appearance since July 21 because he was on the injured list.
“It was a good response by the team,” Cole said. “Back and forth on a handful of swings -- Alvarez, Yelich, George. We were playing a good team so they’re going to put good swings on the ball, and likewise we have good hitters who are going to be able to do that. Sometimes you get in a little bit of a seesaw affair and somebody’s going to need to step up. Josh, obviously, not having pitched in a while in the Major Leagues, it was a big spot for him and we celebrated him.”