CLEVELAND — Luis Severino didn’t deliver much in the way of a closing argument for starting Tuesday’s All-Star Game for the American League.
Neither, for that matter, did Corey Kluber of the Indians.
Indeed, the matchup of aces and Cy Young Award candidates failed to materialize Thursday night as neither starter pitched especially well.
Severino lasted five innings, matching his season low, and recorded only one strikeout. But behind two home runs by Brett Gardner and one by Didi Gregorius, plus two more RBIs by the surging Greg Bird, the Yankees beat Kluber and took the first game of a key four-game series before the break, 7-4, in front of 31,267 at Progressive Field.
“I thought this game was going to be a pitchers’ duel,” Severino said with a smile, “but it didn’t go that way. But we won, that’s the important part.”
The Yankees (61-31) improved to 5-3 on this 11-game trip and remained 3 1⁄2 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, who have won 10 straight games.
Severino, 14-2 with a 2.21 ERA coming in, allowed four runs and a season-high nine hits. His streak of starts in which he allowed three or fewer earned runs was snapped at 16.
Severino, who came in with 143 strikeouts in 123 1⁄3 innings, didn’t get a strikeout until the final out of the fifth. That turned out to be his final pitch of the night, No. 94.
“I will go to the video room and see what was going on. Because I struck out one batter today,” said Severino, who hinted that he might have been tipping his slider and that the Indians were expecting it. “I’m not that kind of guy. Maybe two, five, but not one. Something weird was happening.”
Severino allowed home runs by Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez — who hit his 28th to set an Indians record for homers before the All-Star break — making it four homers allowed in his last two games. He allowed six homers in his first 18 starts.
Aaron Hicks’ RBI double to center in the eighth on Kluber’s full-count changeup broke a 4-4 tie, and Bird’s sacrifice fly off lefthander Oliver Perez later in the inning made it 6-4 and gave him 10 RBIs in his last three games. Gardner hit his second homer and ninth of the season in the ninth to make it 7-4.
“I thought the two best righthanders in the American League were pitching tonight,” Gardner said. “Neither of them had their best stuff, but for us to be able to come out on top on a night when Sevy struggled a little bit was a big win for us.”
Adam Warren, David Robertson and Dellin Betances each pitched a hitless inning to get the ball to Aroldis Chapman, who hadn’t pitched since coming out of Saturday’s game in Toronto, bothered by the left knee tendinitis he’s dealt with most of the season. Chapman pitched a perfect ninth to go 25-for-26 in save chances.
Though Kluber came into the night 12-4 with a 2.49 ERA this season and with a career mark of 5-1, 1.80 against the Yankees, the latter numbers were regular season only. The Yankees hit Kluber hard twice in last season’s five-game Division Series victory, knocking him out after 3 2⁄3 innings in Game 5.
He gave up four runs in the first four innings Thursday night and wound up allowing six runs and eight hits in 7 1⁄3 innings.
Kluber retired the first six batters he faced and had a 2-0 lead on Ramirez’s RBI single and Encarnacion’s two-out homer in the first. But Miguel Andujar doubled to lead off the third and Gardner lined a home run over the rightfield wall to tie it.
“That got the boys going a little bit,” Boone said.
Gregorius homered and Bird hit an RBI double off the right-centerfield wall in the fourth, but Ramirez homered to tie it at 4-4 in the fifth.
The Yankees improved to 17-6 against teams that would qualify for the American League playoffs if the season ended Friday, including a 4-0 mark against the Indians (50-42).
“That’s not a ton of games, but look, I think the guys in our room, there’s no question they like the competition and there’s an element of they rise up a little bit when they’re going up against the best,” Boone said. “I love the fact we’ve performed well. I don’t think there’s any question those guys in there, the hair on their neck stands up a little bit when they’re up against the best.”