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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 18: Gerrit Cole pose for a photo at Yankee Stadium during a press conference at Yankee Stadium on December 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

It’s Cole’s time to shine

“The Stakes”

“They are high”

“I enjoy them”

For all intents and purposes, the New York Yankees shelled out $324 million dollars for tonight’s game. The reason the Yankees have fallen short the last few years is that they didn’t have a clear ace to line up for Game 1. Yes, Luis Severino can be very good when healthy, but he’s not, and never really has been, in Cole’s category. Few pitchers are.

Cole started off slow for the Yankees. He had a near-4 ERA and some fans were wondering what exactly we paid for. Then, Cole simply flipped the switch. All told he finished the season with a 2.84 ERA, which is elite in this league. Batters hit just .196 against him. His one blemish is that he allowed a 46.9% hard-hit rate this season, which is near the bottom of the league. However, I will attribute that to his poor start, because halfway through the season, the switch flipped as we talked about. See below for a chart showing slugging percentage against Cole throughout this season:

CC Sabathia was also like this during his prime years. He would hover around a 4 ERA until around June, and then he would be a monster for the rest of the season. No shame in that. Better to start slow and finish strong than the other way around.

The Cleveland Indians are No. 27 in the league in wRC+. Their offense is not great, however, not one will be paying attention to that. All eyes will be on the Indians’ starter Shane Bieber, who is their version of Cole and has been even better this season. He is a lock for the AL Cy Young award and will probably finish in the top three of MVP voting. He had a 1.63 ERA this season. I fully expect that to motivate Cole. He knows this is what the Yankees signed him for and I think he relishes the opportunity. Look for him to make a statement tonight.