The Yankees, to the surprise of many, took three of four from the starting pitching-rich Indians just before the All-Star break.
The one pitcher they didn’t solve in the series, however, was Corey Kluber, who controlled them over eight innings.
The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner did much of the same Saturday, allowing two second-inning runs but none thereafter as the Indians beat the Yankees, 5-2, on a sweltering afternoon at the Stadium.
“He didn’t do a whole lot different today than he did against us at their place when he dominated us. And what he’s been doing the last couple years [overall],” said Brett Gardner, who went 1-for-2 with a walk against Kluber and added a second hit against Andrew Miller in the ninth.
The 30-year-old righthander, who limited the Yankees (55-55) to one run and five hits July 8 in Cleveland, allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings Saturday. Only two of those hits came after the second inning. Kluber (11-8, 3.22 ERA) struck out eight and walked one, improving to 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 33 innings in five career starts against the Yankees.
“His fastball, cutter, slider combination is really, really good,” Joe Girardi said. “He knows how to use both sides of the plate, he knows how to use his cutter both sides, he knows how to expand with his breaking ball, he knows how to pitch up when he has to . . . He just really knows how to pitch.”
Miller, traded by the Yankees to the AL Central-leading Indians (62-46) on July 31, allowed a leadoff single to Gardner in the ninth but retired three straight — including Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira on strikeouts — for his first save in a Cleveland uniform.
CC Sabathia (6-9, 4.18) wasn’t bad — he didn’t allow a hit through three innings — but could not hold the early 2-0 lead. The lefthander allowed three runs and six hits in 5 2⁄3 innings, falling to 1-4 with a 6.62 ERA in his last nine starts.
Sabathia allowed two home runs, a fourth-inning blast by Jason Kipnis (his 19th) and a sixth-inning shot by Mike Napoli (his 28th) that made it 3-2. Both homers came on 3-and-1 fastballs.
“He was in bad counts today and figured out how to get out of a lot of situations, some double-play balls,” Girardi said. “But eventually it caught up to him . . . His command was a little off today, but he still gave us a pretty good shot to win.”
But after that rough second inning, Kluber made that shot a long one.
Rajai Davis’ homer off Anthony Swarzak — who has allowed seven homers in 23 1⁄3 innings — made it 4-2 in the seventh and Kipnis’ RBI single off Nick Goody in the ninth gave Miller a three-run cushion.
Starlin Castro, who broke open Friday night’s game with his first career grand slam, got the Yankees started with one out in the second with a broken-bat single to left. After Didi Gregorius struck out, Gary Sanchez lined a 1-and-2 sinker into the gap in left-center for an RBI double that made it 1-0.
Aaron Hicks ripped a single to right to put runners at the corners and, with Ronald Torreyes up, Indians catcher Roberto Perez got crossed up on an 0-and-2 pitch. The ball skittered to the backstop and Sanchez scored to make it 2-0.
But the Yankees would not score again, making it the 44th time in 110 games — an even 40 percent — that they have scored two or fewer runs. Their record in those games is 6-38.
From there, Kluber shut it down, allowing his offense to climb back into the game. He did not see another runner in scoring position after the second and retired the last eight he faced.
“He’s one of the best in baseball,” said Teixeira, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Kluber. “Throws every pitch for strikes, hits the corners, changes speeds. He’s one of the best.”