Here’s another stat that shows just how far Cole has come in his two seasons in Houston. (Sorry, Pittsburgh fans.)
1. Cole’s 15 Ks were the third-most in postseason history
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). It’s perhaps worth noting that Brown’s Padres and Gibson’s Cardinals each made the World Series in those seasons — both lost, however.
2. They were the most in Astros playoff history
The Astros are now a win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series for the third consecutive season.
3. Cole now has 10 consecutive starts with 10+ Ks
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.
4. Cole struck out the whole Rays order
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:
5. There were 33 swinging strikes…
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.
6. …and 14 swinging strikeouts
Saturday marked Cole’s second 10-plus strikeout postseason start, making him the franchise record holder in yet another K-related category.
7. Cole had five strikeouts on three different pitches
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.
8. It was his second 10+ strikeout game in the playoffs
As the graphic above notes, Cole set the Astros franchise record with his performance.
9. Cole’s heater averaged 97.9 mph
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.
10. It took him 118 pitches
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.
11. Second 12+ strikeout game put him in elite company
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.
12. Cole and Verlander have 23 Ks so far
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. 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.
13. Cole had one walk… to his last batter
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.
14. Cole had 14 Ks in three playoff starts with Pirates
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.
15. Cole gave the ‘Stros a 2-0 lead
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.
So far, two-thirds of the trio have shown what that kind of firepower can do for a team.