Gerrit Cole brings heat, strikes out Josh Donaldson twice: ‘Probably a bit of the moment’

Thrust into the position as the face of baseball’s burgeoning controversy over the application of foreign substances to improve pitchers’ grips and spin rates, Cole responded with a solid effort Wednesday at Target Field in the New York Yankees’ 9-6 win over the Minnesota Twins, striking out nine and allowing two solo home runs in six innings.

After the win, Cole attempted to downplay both his increased velocity as “sometimes you just bring your best fastball” and the showdowns against Donaldson, saying the outs were big only in the context that Donaldson is an important cog in the Twins’ lineup.

With some speculation that he might throw at Donaldson, Cole instead went right after him in the bottom of the first inning, striking out Donaldson on a 1-2, big-breaking curveball that measured 2,901 rpm — a higher spin rate than all but one curveball he had thrown against the Tampa Bay Rays last week.

Cole’s spin rate normalized somewhat against the Twins, after he had posted his lowest average spin rate in that start against the Rays, in which he allowed five runs in five innings.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he didn’t know whether the foreign-substance chatter would subside, but added of Cole, “The one thing I know, he’s an amazing pitcher and a tremendous competitor.

“I would say this: With Gerrit Cole, he was the first guy to pitch since the suspensions had happened and he was the first guy you could see spin rates going down.

“Just think about how many pitches I’ve seen in my career, think about Nelson Cruz, a lot of these guys who have seen a lot of pitches,” he said.

With MLB indicating it will soon start cracking down on illegal substances applied to the baseball, other pitchers have also seen their spin rates fall, as Donaldson indicated.

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