CLEVELAND | Unflappable and unassuming, Corey Kluber rarely shows any emotion on or off the mound.
But after a night when he joined three Hall of Famers — and three of his pitching heroes — on a rare list, Kluber allowed himself a brief moment to gloat.
“It’s cool,” he said.
Pinpoint. Typical Kluber.
Cleveland’s ace upstaged Sonny Gray’s debut for New York by pitching a three-hitter and leading the Indians to a 5-1 win over the sloppy Yankees on Thursday night.
Kluber (9-3) struck out 11 and outshined Gray (6-6), let down by a New York defense that made three errors in the first inning. The defending AL champions won the opener of a four-game series with a potential playoff opponent and ended their losing streak at three.
With his latest dominant performance, Kluber joined Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to strike out at least eight in 12 consecutive starts. Johnson did it four times in his career and holds the record with 17 straight.
Kluber often dismisses any chance to brag about his statistics or milestones. But he was pleased to be in such elite company.
“I mean, all three are guys I grew up watching and idolizing, so to be mentioned with them is definitely an honor and it’s cool,” he said.
For five innings, Gray (6-6) was nearly as good as Kluber, but New York kicked the ball around in the first behind the right-hander, who was acquired at Monday’s trade deadline from Oakland to help the Yankees return to the postseason.
Gray settled in after the rough beginning and allowed only two hits until the sixth, when Yan Gomes broke an 0-for-13 slide by hitting a two-out, two-run double to put Cleveland up 4-0.
Following the game, Gray didn’t make any excuses and wasn’t about to point fingers at his new teammates.
“That’s just part of the game,” he said of the miscues by first baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Tyler Wade and right fielder Clint Frazier in the first. “You make pitches. We were able to come out of the first inning with only two.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was disappointed with the errors, especially because they gave Kluber a cushion.
“That’s probably as bad a first inning that we’ve had all year. It leads to two unearned runs. It leads to extra pitches,” Girardi said. “Sonny threw the ball well. It’s unfortunate we gave up those runs. Kluber had a lot to do with it. His stuff is dynamite. When he gives you a ball to hit, you better not miss it.”
Kluber took the lead and ran with it. He was locked in from the start and carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh before Gary Sanchez belted his 17th homer, a 427-foot laser shot to center.
And along with containing the Bronx Bombers, Kluber didn’t make Indians manager Terry Francona dip into a bullpen missing All-Star reliever Andrew Miller, who is on the disabled list with knee tendinitis.
“Klubes just took over,” Francona said. “The first time we’re playing without Andrew, to just bypass those innings was really big. Any day you can win and stay away from guys throwing at this time of year is important.”