He did comply “as a representative of myself,” saying, “It was a pleasure to play in Houston,” but note that he used the past tense. And the future free agent sported a cap that bore the logo of his agent, Scott Boras, rather than one with the team’s logo.
Cole had to be reacting out of disappointment, at both the loss and at being passed over by Manager A.J. Hinch. He warmed up in the seventh inning, but Hinch chose to replace starter Zack Greinke with reliever Will Harris rather than his rested ace. Harris gave up a two-run homer to Howie Kendrick that put the Nationals up 3-2, a lead they did not relinquish.
Asked about not pitching, Cole, who has spent two seasons in Houston after five in Pittsburgh, was a company man. “We followed the game plan of not coming in until late,” he said.
Hinch’s explanation? “I wasn’t going to pitch him unless we were going to win the World Series and have a lead. He was going to help us win. He was available, and I felt it was a game that he was going to come in had we tied it or taken the lead. He was going to close the game in the ninth after I brought [Roberto] Osuna in had we kept the lead.”
Cole can file for free agency Thursday and is going to get one of the biggest contracts in baseball history. According to spotrac.com, Cole’s market value is $197.9 million for six seasons, an average salary of $32.96 million, a record for a pitcher. With Justin Verlander and Greinke both getting more than $30 million a year from the Astros and owner Jim Crane hoping to avoid the luxury tax, Cole is unlikely to return. He is expected to draw keen interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers, L.A. Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.
At 29 Cole led the American League with a 2.50 ERA and compiled a 20-5 record. He led all of baseball with 326 strikeouts over 212 1/3 innings. In five postseason starts, he was 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 36⅔. In the World Series, he was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA.
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