The Houston Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday night, notching a 3-1 victory to stake them to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five set. The Astros have some timely hitting to thank for their win, but most of the credit is owed to right-handed starter Gerrit Cole, who struck out 15 batters in 7 2/3 innings and one-upped Justin Verlander's Game 1 start.
Let's review Cole's historic start with some statistics -- 15 of them in all, or one for every strikeout he recorded against the Rays.
1. Cole's 15 Ks were the third-most in postseason history
Where else would we start? Cole's 15 punchouts represent the third-most ever recorded in a postseason game. The only pitchers to strike out more in the playoffs? Kevin Brown in 1998 and Bob Gibson in 1968.
2. They were the most in Astros playoff history
As the graphic above notes, Cole set the Astros franchise record with his performance.
3. Cole now has 10 consecutive starts with 10+ Ks
Cole set a new record during the regular season by ending it with nine consecutive 10-plus strikeout outings. Obviously Saturday's game makes it 10 in a row for him. Put another way, Cole has struck out 125 batters in his last 10 appearances -- that's more than 43 pitchers with 100-plus frames had all season.
4. Cole struck out the whole Rays order
Cole struck out every single batter in the Rays lineup -- from leadoff hitter Yandy Diaz to cleanup batter Ji-Man Choi to No. 9 hitter Willy Adames. He struck out five of the Rays batters multiple times, and two of them three times.
5. There were 33 swinging strikes...
All strikes count the same, effectively, but there's something about a swing-and-miss that expresses a pitcher's dominance over the opposition. Cole, for his part, had 33 swinging strikes on the night. Not only was it the first time in his career he topped 30, but it was the most in any postseason game over the last 15 years.
From @ESPNStatsInfo:— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 6, 2019
Swings and Misses in Postseason Game Last 15 Years
2010 NLDS, Tim Lincecum: 31
2017 ALCS, Justin Verlander: 25
2015 NLDS, Jacob deGrom: 24
2013 ALCS, Max Scherzer: 24
2013 ALDS, Justin Verlander: 24
Gerrit Cole had 23 through five innings tonight.
6. ...and 14 swinging strikeouts
Let's add another dimension to that: Cole had 14 swinging strikeouts. He wasn't playing freezeball with smoke and mirrors out there -- he was saying here, hit this; they couldn't.
Gerrit Cole has 14 swinging strikeouts tonight.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 6, 2019
That's the most by any pitcher in a postseason game in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).
Broke a tie at 13 with a 2015 Jacob deGrom postseason start.
7. Cole had five strikeouts on three different pitches
Cole recorded a strikeout on three different pitches: his fastball, his slider, and his curve. In fact, he notched exactly five strikeouts on each of them, according to Statcast.
8. It was his second 10+ strikeout game in the playoffs
Saturday marked Cole's second 10-plus strikeout postseason start, making him the franchise record holder in yet another K-related category.
Gerrit Cole is the only pitcher in Astros history with multiple 10-K postseason games in his career.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 6, 2019
(Verlander has 1...so uh, add a 'for now' to this one...feels like Verlander will join the list at some point this postseason)
9. Cole's heater averaged 97.9 mph
Cole averaged 97.9 miles per hour on his fastball during Saturday's game. That's a hair above his regular-season average of 97.1 mph. Blame it on adrenaline (or a measurement deviation).
10. It took him 118 pitches
Cole set a career-high by throwing 118 pitches on the night, including more than 20 in the eighth inning. Nonetheless he was able to hit 99 and 100 mph on a few of his final pitches.
Gerrit Cole's 94th pitch was a 100.0 mph swinging strike for a strikeout of Ji-Man Choi.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 6, 2019
He's 1 of 2 starters in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008) with multiple 100.0 mph strikeouts in the postseason, along with Noah Syndergaard.
11. Second 12+ strikeout game put him in elite company
Cole became the fourth pitcher with multiple 12-K-plus performances in the postseason. Yes, the other three are just as impressive as you'd suspect:
Gerrit Cole is the 4th pitcher in MLB history with multiple postseason games with 12+ K.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 6, 2019
What a list.
12. Cole and Verlander have 23 Ks so far
Cole and Verlander have amassed 23 Ks in 14 2/3 innings this series against the Rays. When the Astros acquired Zack Greinke, everyone talked about how it would give them a third ace.
So far, two-thirds of the trio have shown what that kind of firepower can do for a team.
13. Cole had one walk... to his last batter
Cole nearly exited the game as the first pitcher in postseason history with 15 strikeouts and no walks. Alas, he walked the final batter he faced, dashing that. Still, that's a wicked K-to-BB ratio.
Gerrit Cole now has 14 strikeouts and no walks. No pitcher has ever had that many strikeouts without a walk in a postseason game.— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) October 6, 2019
14. Cole had 14 Ks in three playoff starts with Pirates
Here's another stat that shows just how far Cole has come in his two seasons in Houston. (Sorry, Pittsburgh fans.)
15. Cole gave the 'Stros a 2-0 lead
The Astros are now a win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series for the third consecutive season.
Here's a bonus tidbit for the road: Cole will be a free agent this winter. If they're serious about winning, your favorite team should be willing to hand over a contract with one really big number on it in order to land him.