gerrit cole yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole clearly wasn’t himself in Tuesday’s 6-5 walkoff win over the Baltimore Orioles. The big righty pitched five-plus innings and allowed five runs on six hits. Uncharacteristically, he had three walks to just two strikeouts. The fastball command was never there and Cole generated just seven whiffs, per Statcast.

This was, in reality, the latest in a run of sluggish starts for Cole. He has failed to register a decision in five starts in the month of May and has an unsightly 4.66 ERA over that stretch. Remember that in March/April, he looked near unstoppable with a 1.11 mark. Between losing the fastball in this start and the slider in another, he isn’t in form.

And yet, on paper, Cole is still having a pretty solid year. He’s 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA. His strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) are down at 9.88, but he’s also averaged just over five innings per start this month. He’ll find his stuff again and get more strikeouts while working deeper into games.

Yes, it’s always concerning to see an ace as dominant as Cole struggle, but such is the nature of pitching. Even the best are going to have a handful of starts every year where they either have none of their pitches working or have to improvise. The rest of the time, they look like their dominant selves.

Just look at Mets righty and Cole’s former Astros teammate Justin Verlander. He allowed six runs in five innings against the Rays on May 16, and then held the Guardians to one run through eight innings on Sunday.

Let’s also be fair to Cole. He did pitch six scoreless innings in Toronto last week and even had to labor at points of that game too. And still, he got the job done and kept the Blue Jays off of the scoreboard.

We have to figure Cole will be back to his old self soon. It’s better that he go through some adversity now instead of in the thick of a playoff race. Or, worse yet, in October.

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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.