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Joey Gallo hits two of Yankees' five homers as Corey Kluber dominates former team

Joey Gallo of the New York Yankees celebrates

Joey Gallo of the New York Yankees celebrates his second-inning home run against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Corey Kluber didn’t show much emotion even after pitching a no-hitter in May, so it’s unlikely he was going to show much on Friday night when he made his first career start against Cleveland.

Kluber threw six shutout innings against his former team as the Yankees beat Cleveland, 8-0, before 31,403 at Yankee Stadium.

Joey Gallo (twice), Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton homered for the Yankees (83-65), who remained a half-game behind Boston (84-65) and moved a half-game ahead of Toronto (82-65) in the AL wild-card race.

"He set the tone for us tonight," Judge said of Kluber. "We just kind of fed off his energy and kept rolling."

In his fourth start since returning from the injured list (shoulder) on Aug. 30, Kluber (5-3, 3.68 ERA) allowed four hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out four. He threw 95 pitches.

"Corey giving us a really strong six innings," Aaron Boone said. "We haven’t had a lot of those games where [we] scored a couple and then pulled away like that. It was really, really good to see a complete effort.

"I thought stuff was really good, and the command’s getting better," Boone said. "I still think there’s another level for him to go to. But he commanded the ball better . . . was a better, more efficient strike-thrower tonight. I thought the stuff probably ticked up. It looked like stuff was moving all over the place, which is what he’s known for, right? But the movement quality of his pitches, I felt like he had that going tonight. Hopefully this is another step in his progression to getting all the way back."

Kluber won 98 games and two American League Cy Young Awards while spending his first nine seasons in Cleveland. He pitched one inning for Texas in 2020 before signing with the Yankees in the offseason as a one-year, $11 million gamble.

The Yankees played four games in Cleveland in late April, and even though Kluber didn’t pitch, he did get to say hello and goodbye to the city in which he once starred.

"I think that maybe it would have been different if I would have pitched when we went there in April," Kluber said before the game. "I was the one guy in the rotation that didn’t line up to pitch that series. I think, in a way, maybe that got all that stuff out of the way. Being able to go see the old teammates, training staff, strength staff, that kind of thing. I think they’ve had a fair amount of turnover since I was there, too. I don’t think it will be much different for me than facing anybody else at this point."

After actually facing Cleveland, did Kluber feel anything extra? "No," he said. "To me, that would have been a selfish kind of approach to it, especially the position we're in. It doesn't matter whether I'm pitching against a former team or pitching against somebody else. We’ve got to go out there and try to win every ballgame every night."

In his first three outings after his three-month IL stint, Kluber didn’t pitch more than four innings in any start and had an 8.49 ERA. He allowed 14 hits and seven walks in 11 2⁄3 innings but struck out 17.

"Personally, for me, I think it’s just the more reps I get, the better in tune I kind of get with the feel of stuff, what I’m trying to do out there," Kluber said. "Not to say that the more I pitch is always going to be great. I just think that I personally have a better feel for maybe what’s off when I execute a pitch and then what the correction is to make that, and then once you identify it, actually being able to do it."

Gallo hit a laser into the second deck in right leading off the second inning against Zach Plesac to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Judge led off the fourth with his 35th home run and fifth in the last seven games, a blast into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center.

In the seventh, Gio Urshela knocked out Plesac (10-6, 4.59 ERA) with an RBI single that made it 3-0. Gardner greeted Nick Wittgren with a three-run homer to right, his ninth of the season. In his last 12 games, he is 13-for-40 (.325) with three homers and 10 RBIs.

Stanton added a solo shot, his 29th homer of the season and ninth in the last 22 games, in the eighth and Gallo went back-to-back with a blast into the Yankees’ bullpen. It was his 37th homer and 12th with the Yankees.

Gallo has homered in four consecutive games in which he had an at-bat. In the last seven games in which he has had an at-bat, he has gone 8-for-22 (.364) with six homers — and also came up just short of a grand slam Thursday.

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