CLEVELAND — Sonny Gray didn’t disappoint in his Yankees debut.
The Yankees defense?
That’s another matter.
In an almost comedic, rapid-fire fashion, the Yankees committed three first-inning errors, leading to a pair of unearned runs.
That, and a three-hitter by Indians ace Corey Kluber were the primary contributors to an ugly 5-1 loss last night at Progressive Field.
“As bad a first inning as we’ve had all year,” Joe Girardi said.
The suddenly punchless Yankees (57-50), losers of three straight, fell two games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
Gray (6-6, 3.41), the Yankees’ headline acquisition at the trade deadline, allowed four runs (two earned) and four hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked three and brushed aside a question about the errors.
Instead, the 27-year-old righthander lamented the two-out rally the Central-leading Indians put together in the sixth that started with a walk to Carlos Santana. Brandon Guyer then singled and Yan Gomes snapped an 0-for-13 skid with a two-run double off the 19-foot wall in left-center that made it 4-0.
“Two-out walks, those will always come back to bite you,” Gray said. “Get through that inning and keep them at 2, anything can happen. When they put those other couple runs across, it makes it a lot more difficult to make a comeback . . . I wasn’t able to shut that inning down. It put us in a difficult situation and that’s something I have to be better at.”
Needless to say, no one else in the clubhouse was blaming the newest Yankee.
“You get a really good pitcher on our side and we just didn’t play well behind him to start,” said Chase Headley, who kicked off the error party by bobbling Bradley Zimmer’s leadoff grounder in the first. “Obviously when you’re going against a guy like Corey Kluber, who had as good stuff as I’ve seen him have, you get behind it’s tough to come back.”
Sixth inning or not, against Kluber (9-3, 2.77) there likely wasn’t going to be a comeback.
The righthander, with his typically brilliant cutter/sinker and curveball combination, threw six shutout innings before allowing a homer to Gary Sanchez in the seventh that made it 4-1. Francisco Lindor’s homer off Chasen Shreve in the bottom half made it 5-1.
Kluber, who threw 106 pitches in the 2 hour, 28-minute game, struck out 11.
He became the fourth pitcher to strike out at least eight batters in 12 straight starts, joining Randy Johnson (four times), Pedro Martinez (twice) and Nolan Ryan. Kluber improved to 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees.
“He’s got a lot of deception,” Headley said. “I don’t think you see the ball great out of his hand, and then it might go left, it might go right, it might go down. He’s hot right now, he’s throwing the ball great. When he’s executing like he is, there’s not a lot sometimes a hitter can do.”
After Kluber struck out two in a perfect 14-pitch top of the first, Gray watched Headley, Tyler Wade, also on a grounder, and rightfielder Clint Frazier, overthrowing third, make errors that helped Cleveland to the early lead.
“That’s just part of the game,” Gray said of the errors.
Austin Romine was impressed with how the pitcher handled the misfortune, tossing four shutout innings thereafter.
“Any pitcher that’s out there you’d hope they’d respond the way that he did,” Romine said. “He put up zeros and allowed us to be able to try and come back in that game.”
Sonny Gray’s line: