NEW YORK -- Seeking a stopper, the Indians turned to their ace. Corey Kluber toed the rubber on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, tasked with reversing five rough performances by the Indians' starting rotation, and he didn't disappoint. The right-hander tossed eight dominant innings to lead the Indians to a 5-2 win over the Yankees.
"You compete to win, not to try to mop up a game," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We fell behind early, but man was [Kluber] terrific after that."
Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner, received some help from his offense, which mashed three solo home runs, two of which came against CC Sabathia, who won the '07 AL Cy Young. The big lefty struck out five, but was charged with three earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees struck first when rookie catcher Gary Sanchez ripped an RBI double in the second. It marked the second straight game he recorded an RBI, after driving in two runs on Friday. The Bombers scored later in the inning, when Sanchez sped home on a wild pitch. But the Tribe provided the rest of the offense from there.
Jason Kipnis got Cleveland on the board with a solo homer in the fourth. The Indians tied the score at 2 in the fifth, when Rajai Davis delivered an RBI single. Mike Napoli put the Indians ahead with a solo shot in the sixth, and Davis added a solo homer of his own in the seventh. The Indians tacked on some additional insurance in the ninth when Kipnis' RBI single scored Davis.
Former Yankees left-hander Andrew Miller picked up his first save with the Indians with a scoreless ninth inning.
"He's obviously got a real good arm and [it was] a tough at-bat, but it was tough seeing him in another uniform," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said of facing his friend and former teammate. "He's one of my all-time favorite teammates -- not just on the field and how good of a pitcher he is, but how good of a teammate [he was] and the way he is in the clubhouse and the way he treats everybody. Everything about him. I can't say enough about what he did here."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED It's the little things: The Indians didn't pack the bases with runners. In fact, they finished 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position. But thanks to three big swings, Cleveland picked up the victory. Kipnis ripped a solo shot in the fourth, while Napoli hit another in the sixth and Davis blasted one to left field in the seventh. It wasn't an overwhelming display of offense, but the power surge lifted the Tribe.
"He has that in him," Francona said of Davis' homer. "Obviously, Nap's big home run, he's done that all year for us."
Top to bottom: If the Yankees only had to face the bottom half of the Indians' lineup on Saturday, things might've ended up a little bit differently. All five of the Indians' runs were driven in and four of the five runs were scored by the first four men in the lineup. By contrast, the top four hitters in the Yankees' lineup went 2-for-15 on Saturday with four strikeouts.
"His fastball-cutter-slider combination is really, really good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of what Kluber was able to do to the Yankees. "He knows how to use both sides of the plate, he knows how to use his cutter on both sides of the plate. He knows how to expand with his breaking ball, he knows how to pitch up when he has to. He really knows how to pitch."
Kluber dominant: Entering the game, Indians starters had allowed at least 10 runs in four of five contests in August. Early on, it seemed the struggles might continue with Kluber, as the Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The righty surrendered one more hit from there, retiring the side in order in the third, fourth, seventh and eighth. Over eight innings, he struck out eight against one walk.
Kluber was hesitant to accept the notion of being a stopper, though.
"I think the bullpen probably needed a little bit of a break, but I didn't put any more pressure on myself because of the last few games," Kluber said. "I just approached it the way I always do, trying to go deep in the game. I told myself to keep the same mindset as usual and hope it turned out like it did."
It turned out well. In addition to giving most of the bullpen a rest, Kluber restored confidence to a starting rotation desperate for a jolt. Francona said many of the younger pitchers look up to Kluber.
"I thought he kind of found another gear, which was good," Francona said. "He started pumping it pretty good. And if he lost the strike zone for a pitch or two, he came right back and got it. Good breaking ball to some of the righties, and I thought it was a really good effort." More >
What learning curve?: Since being called up from the Minors on Wednesday, Sanchez has put together a four-game hit streak with doubles in each of his last three games. It took Sanchez less than 20 at-bats this season to get to three doubles, which is extremely impressive given that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, who both have more than 225 at-bats, have six and nine doubles this year, respectively.
"I've DH-ed before, I've played a little bit of first. So it won't be that big of a transition." -- Brian McCann, on the Yankees' plans to give Sanchez a lot of playing time down the stretchMore >
"Well, he's going to help us. He can't hit, things like that. But when it's his turn to pitch, he's going to help us and make our bullpen better." -- Francona, on Miller's impact on the IndiansMore >
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Davis reached double digits in home runs during a season for the first time in his career. His previous high before this season was eight, which he accomplished three times, including the last two campaigns.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians:Carlos Carrasco takes the ball for Cleveland in the series finale on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET. The right-hander, much like the rest of the Indians' starting rotation, struggled last time out, allowing a career-high eight runs in a 10-6 loss to the Twins. It'll be his eighth career start against the Yankees and second of the season.
Yankees: The Yankees round out the series and the homestand with ace Masahiro Tanaka on the mound. Tanaka is coming off his least effective outing of the season, a start in which he allowed seven runs (six earned), but still holds a 7-4 record and a 3.46 ERA.