August 15, 2022

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Schmidt picks up Cole, soaks in 'special' day

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DETROIT — After missing 114 games last season with a right elbow strain, Yankees reliever Clarke Schmidt is not taking anything for granted.

After a quick first inning in which starter Gerrit Cole struck out three around a walk to Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop, Cole ran into unexpected trouble in the second inning of the Yankees’ 4-2 win at Comerica Park. He walked four batters, including a bases-loaded free pass to Willi Castro, before Yankees manager Aaron Boone brought in Schmidt in relief.

Schmidt struck out Schoop to get out of the inning, then pitched three more scoreless frames.

“Huge, huge,” Boone said. “Even with the off-day yesterday, [there are] still a few guys we’re staying away from, so we needed that length from him today. For him to go out and to, obviously, get us out of that jam there in the second inning, and then get us through the middle innings was a big effort for him.

“Excited for him picking up his first win, but it was a huge effort and kind of let us set up the ‘pen in the back half of the game how we hoped. But we needed that effort out of him tonight.”

Schmidt allowed two hits while walking one and striking out a career-high six to earn his first Major League win.

“It means the world to me,” Schmidt said. “A lot of work has gone into this. To be able to get my first career win here is a very, very special moment, something I don’t take lightly. It’s a big blessing for me.

“Like I said, a lot of work has gone into it and you’ve seen the injuries and stuff like that, to be able to come back from that and feel as good as I do right now, being able to string together some good outings early on in the season and have some success and hopefully continue to keep that going throughout the season is a blessing. So, I’m just very thankful to be able to do that tonight.”

Although it took a while for Schmidt to get a feel for his fastball on the chilly Detroit night, he had other pitches working for him.

“I just kind of was attacking the zone,” Schmidt said. “I had two different breaking balls working for me tonight. The changeup, I got some outs on that, as well — it was really good. It was kind of tough in the beginning to get a feel for the fastball. It was so cold it was hard to stay on top of the sinker. I knew that I had good command of the breaking balls, so that was really the key to the success tonight was just being able to command both breaking balls.”

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch gave Schmidt a lot of credit.

“He’s the one guy who came out that could really spin the ball tonight,” Hinch said. “I thought he did a pretty good job of throwing strikes. He was able to get them a little bit deeper. We faced him a little bit in the spring. His ball goes all over the place — that’s a compliment, that’s not a knock on him. And he was able to get to some tough counts for us and he was able to put us away. We had him on the ropes the one inning and didn’t quite get the hit across.”

One of the highlights for Schmidt was the opportunity to face Detroit superstar Miguel Cabrera, whose second-inning single left him four hits shy of 3,000.

But Schmidt looked aghast when he hit Cabrera with a pitch in the third inning. He made sure to tell Cabrera it was an accident.

“You know him, he’s always laughing and making funny faces and stuff, so he made some funny face to me and said, ‘You’re good, no worries,’” Schmidt said. “I was happy I didn’t hurt him.”

In the fifth inning, with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead, Schmidt struck out Cabrera on an 84 mph slider.

“It was a special moment, especially since he’s chasing such a milestone. Obviously, I let that first one slip,” Schmidt said. “I told him at second base I didn’t mean to hit him. He’s such a prolific character in this sport. You see the response from the crowd tonight, and what he’s done for this sport, it’s nothing less than amazing. So to be able to get a big strikeout there was a special moment for myself.

“It was cool to be able to face him, and to have his name on the lineup card for my first career win is a special moment for me, as well.”

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