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On Monday night in the Bronx, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole made his much-anticipated return to the mound after missing more than two weeks because of a positive test for COVID-19. Against the Angels, he delivered near vintage results in an eventual 2-1 win for the Yanks (box score): 

Gerrit Cole
NYY • SP • 45
vs. LAA, 8/16/21
IP5 2/3
H2
R1
SO9
BB1
Pitches90
Strikes59
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The team said beforehand that Cole would not be limited in any way, but as you can see he wasn't permitted to work deeply into the game. Still, it was a most encouraging return. He registered 99 mph with his first pitch of the game, and with his 50th pitch of the game he hit triple digits at the expense of Brandon Marsh: 

The only real blemish came in the first, when Cole leaked a fastball over the plate, and Justin Upton turned it around for his 16th homer of the season. In the home half, Joey Gallo hit a two-run homer to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead that Cole and four relievers would not relinquish. As for Shohei Ohtani, who was not on the mound but was batting leadoff for the Halos as their DH, Cole whiffed him to start the game, but in the second Ohtani took him to the edge of the warning track with the hardest-hit ball Cole permitted all night. 

Overall, Cole leaned heavily on his fastball-slider combo, as you would expect, and he also mixed in his changeup to good effect. He did an excellent job of dodging hard contact with the slider, and overall Cole got 16 whiffs on 43 swings. Here are all nine of his strikeouts on the night: 

Of note is that Cole might not have picked up his 11th win of the season if Jonathan Davis hadn't made this impressive ranging snare in the fifth to keep the tying run off the board: 

With his impressive return to the mound, Cole for the season now has a 3.04 ERA with 185 strikeouts and 29 walks in 136 innings. 

The Yankees in Cole's absence managed to thrive with a 12-4 stretch, but they've been left scrambling in the rotation. Cole's return addressed that crucial weakness in a direct way. Because he started Monday night, he'll miss the huge series against the Red Sox that starts Tuesday, but his strong presence at the front end cascades through the rest of the rotation. 

The Yankees have now gone 20-9 since the break, and they trail the Red Sox by two games in the race for the second and final AL wild card spot.