CLEVELAND — All night, Sonny Gray kept adjusting his new New York Yankees cap. Nearly after every batter, he would end up on the side of the mound, trying to center his hat, which kept shifting to the side. Everything didn’t fit exactly right in Gray’s opening night as a Yankee, including his cap, which was a bit too big.
Gray pitched well, just not as well as Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber. Not many people do.
Gray threw well enough to win, even if a line that starts with six innings and four runs usually doesn’t indicate such. Only two of the runs were earned, and Gray gave up just four hits while striking out six and walking four.
There wasn’t really a lot learned from Thursday night’s 5-1 loss to the defending American League champions, except that the ace known as “Klubot” may still be October’s most intimidating presence. If you watched last fall, you probably already knew that, too.
But if the Yankees are going to keep playing as long as the Indians did last year, these are the types of games they will need to win. Kluber is the type of ace they will need to beat. As for Gray? He will basically have to pitch like he did in his Yankees debut. Just with more help.
His cap kept shifting to the side, unintentionally sort of like the man he replaced — the injured Michael Pineda — but Gray’s pitches were pretty much just right. He allowed two unearned runs because the Yankees exhibited the worst defense in these parts since the Cleveland Browns’ season ended.
They made three errors in the first with first baseman Chase Headley and second baseman Tyler Wade unable to handle grounders, while right fielder Clint Frazier airmailed a throw into third. Gray was forced to pick up five outs instead of the usual three. It resulted in two earned runs.
Gray, 27, is very good, but he is not at Klubot’s level. Kluber is almost not human, as he showed most of October last year. The Yankees don’t need that from Gray, but he just has to keep on doing what he has been doing.
After Thursday’s game, Gray is 4-3 in his past seven starts, but his ERA is just 1.59. With the Yankees’ bullpen, that should win a lot of games. That is, if the Yankees can score.
The offense is becoming a concern. Yankees manager Joe Girardi put Aaron Judge, Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier on the bench on Thursday because all three are struggling. It was a kind gesture, as few hitters become healthier at the plate against Kluber, who has struck out eight or more batters in 12 consecutive starts, an Indians record.
The thought of facing Kluber in October is not a good one for the Yankees. When Progressive Field is rocking and Kluber is on the mound, the Indians are a pretty unbeatable team.
Gray is part of the reason the Yankees should make it to the postseason, but they need to be a little better than they were on Thursday. It was the Yankees’ fourth loss in five games and they are now two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Even with Gray on board, everything isn’t just fitting right, yet.