New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole had a date circled on his calendar, but instead of facing the organization that drafted and developed him, the Pittsburgh Pirates, he’ll use his skills against his club’s top rival.

The American League East-leading Yankees will begin a four-game series against the host Boston Red Sox on Thursday night, with Cole getting the nod in the series opener.

But it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

A rainout of his scheduled start last Friday in Cleveland forced a doubleheader on Saturday and moved his start back one day. Cole (7-2, 2.99 ERA) then missed pitching for the first time ever in Pittsburgh in visitors’ gray.

The Yankees split a two-game set against the Pirates the past two days, taking the series finale 16-0 on Wednesday.

“I just really haven’t been back to kind of soak it all up and think about it and how this feels,” Cole said in Pittsburgh. “It’s pretty cool. I’ve got to take care of Boston (on Thursday), but I do wish to pitch here at some point again. That’ll be really exciting.”

Instead, he gets another turn in one of baseball’s fiercest rivalries.

Across 11 career regular-season starts against Boston, Cole holds a 5-3 ledger with a 4.00 ERA. In two postseason starts vs. the Red Sox, including the AL wild-card game last year, he is 0-2 with a 7.86 ERA.

In the finale at Pittsburgh, the Yankees hit a season-high-tying six homers as part of a season-best 22-hit attack. They scored 11 times in the final two frames. Luis Severino fired six innings of shutout ball in the blowout.

New York first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has 22 homers and 52 RBIs, missed both games against the Pirates due to lower back stiffness.

Boston opened the 2022 season by dropping two of three games against the Yankees. Since last August, the Red Sox have been on the losing end of eight of the past nine regular-season meetings between the bitter foes.

Rafael Devers, who started 78 of Boston’s first 81 games in 2022, missed the past two games of the just-concluded road series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The third baseman took a seat due to minor back and hamstring ailments as the Red Sox fell 8-4 on Tuesday and 7-1 on Wednesday.

“He was fighting it down there, but we have to be smart about it,” Boston manager Alex Cora said of sitting Devers, who is hitting .327 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs.

Boston’s Hansel Robles, a shutdown reliever leading up to last season’s playoffs, was designated for assignment on Wednesday to accommodate the arrival of Brayan Bello, the organization’s top pitching prospect. Bello took the loss in his major league debut, allowing four runs on six hits in four innings against the Rays.

Boston’s Josh Winckowski (3-2, 3.12) will make just his sixth career start on Thursday and his first appearance against the Yankees.

The 24-year-old right-hander recorded victories in three of his past four starts and turned in a strong start on Saturday in Chicago during a loss to the Cubs. He allowed two runs, one earned, and six hits in six innings while walking one and striking out six.

While opposition hitters are batting an impressive .290 against Winckowski, he has allowed just one long ball over 26 innings.

–Field Level Media