SEATTLE (AP) — No one enjoys watching Gerrit Cole pitch more than his Houston Astros teammates.
Cole dominated again Tuesday night, striking out 14 with no walks to win his 15th consecutive decision in a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
“He’s playing a video game,” Astros shortstop Alex Bregman said. “It’s ridiculous. He pushes a button and puts it wherever he wants. It’s just been insane the run he’s been on. It’s been a lot of fun to throw the ball around the infield after he strikes guys out.”
Cole (19-5) says it’s not quite that easy, but it sure does look that way. He’s unbeaten in 21 starts since losing to the Chicago White Sox on May 22. He is on the longest streak of consecutive winning decisions since Toronto’s Roy Halladay was 15-0 during an 18-start span in 2003.
Cole set an Astros season record with 316 strikeouts, three more than J.R. Richard’s total in 1979, and established a team record with his eighth straight game of double-digit strikeouts. The last AL pitcher with that many punchouts in a season was Nolan Ryan, who had 341 in 1977.
He also set a big league record with his seventh start with double-digit strikeouts and no walks, moving one ahead of Clayton Kershaw, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
Cole will try to join teammate Justin Verlander with 20 wins when he starts Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels on the final day of the regular season. He was 19-8 in 2015 when he pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Ultimately (wins are) a team stat,” Cole said. “It’s one of the things that I don’t have as much control over as I think I do, but I’m as proud of it as probably any stat that I have. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I think it would be really unique to have two guys win 40 games out of however many we’re going to win. That would be really special and it would be special for the guys playing behind us.”
Houston (103-54) moved 49 games above .500 for the first time in team history and matched last season’s club for the franchise wins record. The AL West champions maintained their lead over the New York Yankees (102-56) for top record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
Ryan Pressley and Roberto Osuna finished a four-hitter, the Astros’ 12th shutout this season. Osuna worked around a leadoff single for his 37th save in 43 chances.
Bregman hit his 40th homer, a fourth-inning drive off Tommy Milone (4-10). Aledmys Diaz had an RBI double in the seventh and scored when Josh Reddick grounded into a forceout.
Manager AJ Hinch said Bregman “had the biggest smile on his face” when he was rounding the bases and got a celebration from his teammates in the dugout. Cole said there’s no doubt he’s the Astros’ MVP this season.
“He just puts a lot of work into it,” Cole said. “You’re not privy to a lot of the preparation that he does and we aren’t really either because he does a lot of it at home. He’s at the field at noon every day. He’s going over scouting reports and preparing his game plan the night before, often times putting that as more important than sleep.”
Dee Gordon and J.P. Crawford had two hits each for the Mariners. It was better than their last outing against Cole and the Astros, a 21-1 one-hit loss on Sept. 8. Seattle has lost 12 consecutive games against the Astros and is 1-17 against Houston this season with one game left.
Cole has 50 strikeouts against the Mariners, giving up four runs in 28 innings.
“What are you gonna say?” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s basically dominating the league right now and we’ve seen him a few too many times this year. He had it going on tonight.”
Seattle invited prospects Evan White, Logan Gilbert and Cal Raleigh to spend the week at T-Mobile Park with the team during its final homestand. The players are not on the big league roster so they can’t participate in workouts.
Astros: SS Carlos Correa was a late scratch due to lower back tightness. Correa took batting practice in the indoor cage. … LHP Lance McCullers is showing progress in his return from Tommy John surgery and will be sent to the Astros’ facility in Florida this week where his rehab will continue.
Mariners: DH/1B Daniel Vogelbach was 0 for 2 with a walk after missing Sunday’s game at Baltimore with a sore neck.
Astros: RHP Zack Greinke (17-5, 3.05 ERA) tries to win his fourth straight start Wednesday.
Mariners: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (6-10, 5.55 ERA) is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three starts against the Astros this season.