Game 5 was a pivotal one for the Astros in the World Series. They had fought back after getting punched in the mouth at home and now stood a chance to take a series lead and place themselves on the cusp of their second title in three years. And so they turned with confidence to a man who has delivered for them all season long: Gerrit Cole.
Just as the Astros needed him most, Cole answered the call and delivered yet another dominant starting pitching performance for his team. And with 7 innings of 1-run ball he may also have culminated his time in a Houston Astros uniform, bringing to a close one of the most exciting chapters in the team’s pitching history.
Cole came to Houston two seasons ago when the Astros were able to orchestrate a deal with the Pirates that would eventually look like a steal. At the time Cole was a pitcher that always seemed to be just a little behind his reputation as the number 1 overall pick in 2011. While the raw talent was there the numbers never really quite lined up with the expectation. That all changed in Houston.
Cole morphed into what seemed like a whole new pitcher in the 2018 season. He stopped trying to live by the Pirate’s philosophy of pitching to contact and instead started trying to miss bats. He also began taking tips from two of the greatest pitching minds currently in the game: Justin Verlander and Brent Strom. These helped turn Cole into one of the better pitchers in the league in 2018, and the quintessential ace in 2019.
Now I can sit here and dig up a pile of numbers to throw at you about Cole’s dominance over the last two years. I can show you how he’s been the best pitcher for Houston in numerous categories and ranked among the best in others. Modern baseball is certainly built around mathematics designed to suss out the full breadth of a player’s talent. But I really don’t feel like I need to tell anyone who has watched this man pitch from Houston’s mound just how special of a ride it’s been.
As fans we were lucky to watch Cole evolve from raw talent to master of his craft. We watched him miss bats on a consistency never before seen in the game. He was both dominating and intimidating on the mound and created an air of confidence easy for fans to root for. It was truly a spectacle for anyone who enjoys good pitching, and who doesn’t enjoy good pitching? And now, well, it may all be over.
Perhaps the fever dreams of an entire fan base come true and Cole retires a pitcher in Houston, eventually going into Cooperstown with an H on his cap. More likely he takes his payday from a team that needs his services more than the Astros and is willing to reach deeper into the vault. That’s just the way of it. Cole has paid his dues as a professional and can now finally have control over his own destiny. He’s earned it and I will not fault him for wanting to maximize his return.
But for me, even if this is his last season on this team, when I think of Cole I will always remember the blue and orange on him. I’ll remember him standing on the mound at Minute Maid Park and throwing heat mixed with tight, hard sliders. I’ll remember him emptying the tank at 99 to 100 mph late in the game as the Houston faithful cheered him on. I’ll remember watching an AL Cy Young race between the Astros’ two aces, each matching and pushing the other as they reached new heights in their careers. I’ll remember him wearing the road grays as he quieted the Nationals in late October to give his team the best possible chance to win it all.
And I’ll remember that, after it’s all said and done, Gerrit Cole will always be one part of what was the best time to be an Astros fan.
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