The home run ball was very, very good to the Cleveland Indians when they took on the New York Yankees in the first of an important inter-divisional three-game series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on Monday night.
The Indians (74-56) scored their first three runs of the game on solo home runs, and those blasts, two from second baseman Jose Ramirez and one from first baseman Carlos Santana, powered Cleveland to a 5-2 victory over the Yankees (70-60).
With Minnesota idle and Kansas City losing to the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium, the Indians increased their lead in the American League Central Division to seven games over the Twins and 10 over the Royals with 32 to play in the regular season.
The Indians got the hit parade started in the top of the first inning.
After shortstop Francisco Lindor grounded out and left fielder Austin Jackson struck out looking, Ramirez blasted a 3-2 pitch from Yankees starter Luis Severino over the wall in right-center field for his 19th home run of the season, but he was far from done at the plate.
In the bottom of the third inning, designated hitter Chase Headley drew the Yankees even with the Indians with a lead-off home run off of Cleveland starter Corey Kluber, and third baseman Todd Frazier put New York in front with an RBI single to left field in the bottom of the fifth that pushed across center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who doubled earlier in the frame.
Following back-to-back strikeouts from Lindor and Jackson to start the sixth inning, Ramirez again belted a Severino offering into the seats in right field, which drew the Indians and Yankees even at 2-2.
In their next at-bat, the Indians took a one-run lead when Santana socked a 1-1 pitch from Severino over the wall in right field for his 21st round-tripper of the season.
After the home run, center fielder Bradley Zimmer singled to center field, and then, used his speed to impact the game. With Adam Warren on to relieve Severino, Zimmer stole second base, advanced to third on a throwing error charged to catcher Gary Sanchez, and then, came in to score on a wild pitch.
Jackson gave the Indians a fifth run with a solo homer off of Warren in the top of the eighth inning, and Zimmer doubled home Santana in the top of the ninth.
Despite struggling to locate the strike zone at times, Kluber settled in against the Yankees and scattered two earned runs, three hits, including the Headley homer, and one walk over eight innings of work on the way to his 13th victory of the season.
Kluber struck out seven Yankees hitters, marking the 16th time in his last 17 outings that he set down seven or more batters on strikes.
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