Gerrit Cole Yankees
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It was impossible to open #YankeesTwitter and not see a tornado of Gerrit Cole gossip leading up to Game 1 of the ALDS.

Sure, Cole and his $324 million deal mean he’s the ace of the staff in name, but what about Nestor Cortes? He had a 2.44 ERA and isn’t as prone to giving up home runs as Cole. He’s been a tougher pitcher all year, so isn’t he the ace?

Cut to the Yankees beating the Cleveland Guardians 4-1 in Game 1, and Cole silenced all critics. He overcame a rough start after throwing 62 pitches in the first three innings to finish as strong as anyone could have hoped. In 6.1 innings, he allowed just four hits with one walk and four strikeouts and tossed a healthy 101 pitches.

His only blemish? A solo home run to Steven Kwan.

It’s also worth noting that at one point in the third inning, the Guardians had the bases loaded with just one out. Fans braced themselves for the worst. All year long, Cole’s otherwise strong outings were tainted by one bad inning. This season alone, his ERA across the fifth and sixth innings was an uncharacteristic 4.63.

Instead, Cole got Oscar Gonzalez to ground into a force at home, and Andres Gimenez struck out. A fine escape, but 62 pitches seemed high.

We can now forget last year’s AL Wild Card game. Yes, Cole choked against the hated Boston Red Sox. Surrendering three runs in the first two innings of a do-or-die game is not what an ace does. Except, in this case, Cole was pitching on one leg. Not to mention, that bad start raised his career playoff ERA…to 2.93.

And after tonight, it’s back down to 2.83.

Gerrit Cole did exactly what the New York Yankees needed him to do Tuesday night: take the mound in a sold-out Yankee Stadium in a playoff opener and bring home the win. It doesn’t matter that he labored early on. He never lost focus and was almost automatic once the Yankees scored.

Cool, calm, collected, and composed deep in the belly of the Bronx beast, just like a New York Yankees ace.

And no disrespect to Nestor Cortes, but it was never a contest.

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Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.