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Corey Kluber hit hard in series opening loss to Yankees

MLB: New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night’s game sure looked like it’d be a pitcher’s duel, with aces Corey Kluber and Luis Severino starting. Between them they had racked up 26 wins on the season. Kluber entered with a 2.49 ERA and 123 K’s, while Severino had a 2.12 ERA and 143 K’s. Those are stupid good numbers.

So, of course, both teams ignored those gaudy pitching stats and the offenses took over for most of the night. In the end, it was the Yankees clutch hits and strong bullpen that made the difference, with the Tribe falling 7-4 in game one of the four-game series.

The Indians made Severino work much harder than he normally has to. The young right-hander features electric stuff that seems practically un-hittable at times, but Cleveland hitters worked counts and made him pay for pitches out over the heart of the plate. Severino threw 20+ pitches in each of the first three innings and was pulled after just five innings, tying his shortest outing this year.

The Tribe struck first, plating two runs in the opening inning. Francisco Lindor doubled, Jose Ramirez singled to drive him in, and Edwin Encarnacion homered over the wall in left field to give the good guys the early lead. Two more hits in the third for Cleveland (singles by Michael Brantley and Yonder Alonso) led to another run.

While he won’t be in the Home Run Derby next week, Ramirez dazzled again, flashing his ridiculous bat speed in the fifth inning to drill a 99 mph Severino fastball out to the right field stands. The home run was Jose Ramirez’s 28th of the season, giving JRam the most homers before the All-Star break of any Indians’ player in franchise history. Unbelievable stuff really.

While the Indians were getting to Severino, it’s also fair to say that it wasn’t easy sledding for Kluber either.

The Yankees got on the board in the third, as Brett Gardner turned on a 90 mph cutter from Kluber for a two-run homer. New York really had something going in the fourth, with Didi Gregorius (Kluber’s nemesis) homering and the next four Yankee hitters reaching base. Somehow Kluber got out of the jam without too much damage (only two runs), thanks to a strikeout and lineout double play.

New York took the lead for good in the eighth, when Tito Francona elected to keep Kluber in instead of going to the much-maligned Tribe bullpen. Kluber was at 100 pitches even and had just breezed through the seventh, so it wasn’t some total boneheaded move from Francona. But it didn’t work. Kluber walked Gregorius and then left a changeup high enough in the zone for Aaron Hicks to double off the wall in center. The Yankees had the lead and that was that. Kluber’s final line read six earned runs over 7 and 13 innings, with nine strikeouts.

It’s Shane Bieber’s turn Friday night, as he faces off Domingo German. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.