ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — While Gerrit Cole racked up a season-high 15 strikeouts on the diamond that was once his favorite field, Aaron Judge couldn't help pondering what the Yankees gained and the Angels lost when New York outmaneuvered Los Angeles for his services two years ago.
"I was just sitting out there in the outfield, (thinking), 'Thank goodness he's wearing his away jersey right now and not a white-and-red jersey,'" the slugger said with a smile. "He's that good. He's a guy that can change a team, change a franchise, and we're just happy to have him."
When the Yankees desperately needed to wrap up their road trip with a skid-stopping victory, their $324 million ace delivered.
Cole threw seven excellent innings of four-hit ball to earn his AL-leading 14th victory, and New York snapped its four-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.
Judge hit his 30th homer and Luke Voit had a two-run single for the Yankees, who had won 13 straight before their slide.
Cole (14-6) pitched the final game of that winning streak, and he ended New York's slump in his next start with another performance befitting his mammoth contract. Cole even struck out Shohei Ohtani three times with his blazing fastball — a pitch that rarely seems to get past the major league homers leader this season.
Voit summed up Cole's outing in a word: "Bulldog."
"This is what we paid him to come over here to do," Voit added. "We had a four-game skid, and when his spot is up, we expect to win every time. There's a reason that guy is one of the best pitchers and a frontrunner for the Cy Young."
Cole didn't walk a batter while posting his biggest strikeout total since joining the Yankees. The right-hander was outstanding throughout his first start in his native Orange County since he spurned the Angels' big-money offer in free agency two years ago for New York's even bigger $324 million, nine-year deal.
"It's a special day," Cole said. "This was the last game of a road trip, and we're fighting to stay over .500 for the trip. There was a little bit of intensity there, trying not to get swept on the road, and then to do it in front of my family or whatever is just a little cherry on top. You've still got to do your job, but it's nice."
Cole, who went to high school 4 miles from Angel Stadium, improved to 4-0 with 48 strikeouts, a 2.37 ERA and an 0.99 WHIP over five career starts at the ballpark where his family had season tickets during his childhood in nearby Newport Beach and where Cole played repeatedly in tournaments as a teenager.
"When you're playing in front of buddies and family, and you go out and perform like that, especially coming off a year where we didn't travel ... I'm sure it's very satisfying to go out and do that in front of people that care a lot about you," said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, another Los Angeles-area native.
Cole extended his career-best scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings before David Fletcher delivered an RBI double in the sixth for the Angels, whose three-game winning streak ended as New York avoided being swept in the three-game series.
"I loved our energy," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "I loved the way we played. To win a series at this time of year against this team I think speaks volumes."
Packy Naughton (0-1) yielded six hits and three runs while pitching into the fourth inning of his first major league start and third appearance for the Angels, who acquired him from Cincinnati last year in a trade for Brian Goodwin.
Brett Gardner chased Naughton in the fourth with an RBI single.
Judge connected off Steve Cishek in the eighth.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 25th save in the closer's first appearance since last Thursday.
Yankees: INF Gio Urshela was out of the starting lineup with soreness in his left wrist. He fell on his hand after throwing home Tuesday in a failed attempt to stop Ohtani from stealing home.
Angels: LHP Patrick Sandoval says he expects to be ready for spring training after being shut down for this season with a stress fracture in his lower back. Sandoval pitched his way into the Halos' rotation with a 3.39 ERA in 14 starts.
Yankees: Nestor Cortes Jr. (2-2, 2.77 ERA) takes the mound at Yankee Stadium on Friday against lowly Baltimore.
Angels: Ohtani (8-1, 3.00 ERA) will return to the mound Friday for the opener of a four-game home series against Texas. The two-way superstar was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Yankees, but it was pushed back when he got hit on the hand with a pitch last weekend.
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