I know that today is Halloween, but last night there was one sentence that struck fear in the hearts of every baseball fan who wasn’t rooting for the Houston Astros: “Gerrit Cole is warming up.” It sent a shiver down the spine, as though someone had just walked over a grave.
In just over 36 innings pitched this postseason, Cole had an ERA of 1.72 and a 0.87 WHIP. He struck out 47 batters and only allowed seven earned runs, five of which came in Game 1 of this series, the only blemish on what was otherwise a perfect playoff performance.
For the first time, it seemed like a starting pitcher might have a shot at recreating the Madison Bumgarner 2014 World Series Game 7 Moment, in which Bumgarner entered a one-run game in the fifth inning and held the Kansas City Royals to two hits and no runs for the rest of the game. Several teams have tried this strategy in the years since, though no one has really been able to pull it off.
Cole seemed a likely candidate to do it. After his magnificent Game 5 start, and on three days rest, Cole was warming up in the bullpen as early as the fifth inning. Zack Greinke pitched incredibly well, in addition to being a one-man defense machine, and looked poised to get the win, but was probably left in an inning too long, as he came out to start the seventh.
A.J. Hinch had this to say after the game:
“I wasn’t going to pitch him unless we were going to win the World Series and have a lead. He was going to help us win,” Hinch said of Cole. “He was available, and I felt it was a game that he was going to come in had we tied it or taken the lead. He was going to close the game in the ninth after I brought [Roberto] Osuna in had we kept the lead.”
But they had a lead. In the seventh inning when Greinke started to struggle. Why wait?
Watching the parade of relievers after that was shocking, and would just be a really sad story in any other game. Even your best relievers sometimes have a bad day. And sometimes, like last night, they all have a very bad day at the worst possible time. But in Game 7 of the World Series, when literally everyone except for Justin Verlander was available to pitch, it seems almost inexcusable to have not brought in Cole as Greinke reached his third time through the order. Or at the very least, after the home run to Anthony Rendon.
It’s possible that it wouldn’t have worked out any better than what actually happened, but at least they would have been giving the ball to their best pitcher with the season on the line.
It seems as though Cole agrees. After warming up multiple times, but never getting a chance to get into the game, the camera found Cole as he left the bullpen to return to the clubhouse after the game. The expression “If looks could kill” comes to mind to describe the look on his face. It had to have been incredibly frustrating to be warmed up again and again, only to be forced to just look on as your team lost without ever getting the opportunity to try. Obviously I don’t know what he was thinking in that moment after the game, but he had some choice words shortly afterwards.
In his media availability after the game, Cole stressed immediately that he was “not employed by the team” and made it clear that his comments were as a representative of himself, before going on to praise his teammates and speak fondly of his time in Houston (in the past tense).
Gerrit Cole, now playing for Boras Corp., is about to make a Mystery Team very happy. pic.twitter.com/3s6SjpjMvz— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) October 31, 2019
Cole is now a free agent, and it seems as though his time with the Houston Astros has come to an end. And a bitter one at that.