The subtleties behind beating Houston Astros ace Gerrit Cole

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 05: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros reacts after his 14th strike out during the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on October 05, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 05: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros reacts after his 14th strike out during the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park on October 05, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Beating Houston Astros Ace Gerrit Cole

Cole’s good enough; don’t help him

Diaz’s critical flailing whiff underscored one other dictum when trying to defeat an ace. Do not assist in your own downfall. That generally means eliminating baserunning blunders, and even more importantly it means swinging only at good pitches. In that one sixth inning instant, the Rays violated both dicta.

All night, they ran afoul of it far more frequently in subtle yet problematic ways. Nearly half of the pitches Gerrit Cole threw that were either swung at and missed or put in play were actually outside the strike zone. Only one of those – Adames’ sixth-inning single – resulted in a baserunner. Ten of the 23 men Cole retired he set down thanks to a pitch that should not have been a strike.

The Rays’ batting average against Cole when swinging at non-strikes? It was .091. When they stayed in the strike zone, they hardly roughed Cole up (.214) but at least they had a marginal chance.

In the field, Tampa Bay also hurt its own cause. Yuli Gurriel led off the Houston sixth with a ground ball in the hole that shortstop Adames fielded, bobbled, recovered and then threw low to first for an error.

Had the play been made as it should have, Houston might possibly still have scored in that inning because Carlos Correa followed with a double and Martin Maldonado dropped a one-out base hit into short right. Absent the error, that would have been a two-out single, giving Correa a running start from second. But the error ensured the additional run. Grade: F.