NEW YORK -- — Corey Kluber kept Cleveland's bats as hushed as he usually is.
Pitching against the team that helped him blossom into a star, Kluber allowed four singles over six innings to win for the first time in nearly four months, and the New York Yankees climbed back into a playoff position with an 8-0 rout of the Indians on Friday night.
Typical for the reserved Klubot, he felt nothing special about facing the Indians.
“That would have been a selfish kind of approach to it, especially the position we’re in,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether I’m pitching against a former team or pitching against somebody else.”
With 14 games left, New York moved a half-game ahead of Toronto for the second AL wild card, a half-game behind Boston. The Yankees are just 30-37 vs. the AL East but 47-28 against other teams.
Coming off Thursday's loss at Baltimore, the Yankees' eighth in which they wasted a lead in the final inning, they knew they were running out of time to rebound. Gardner spoke to the team after Friday's win about the need to quickly refocus.
“This time of the year’s it’s important to just slow the game down and realize that we still have a great opportunity ahead of us, not to think too far ahead," he said.
Kluber (5-3) allowed four hits, struck out four, walked two and hit a batter with a pitch, escaping two-on, no-outs trouble in the third and fifth innings.
“He set the tone for us tonight,” Judge said. “We kind of fed off his energy.”
A 35-year-old right-hander, Kluber was 98-58 for the Indians from 2011-19, winning a pair of AL Cy Young Awards.
He missed most of 2019 and ’20 with injuries and rebounded to pitch a no-hitter for the Yankees at Texas on May 19. He left his next outing with a strained right shoulder and didn’t return until Aug. 30, then went 0-1 in his first three starts back.
“I was looking forward to it after being his teammate for so long,” said Cleveland's Roberto Pérez, his former catcher. “It was fun. He looked great today, like himself.”
Kluber started 18 of 23 batters with strikes, including his first 10.
“He looked like he did when he threw a no-hitter against us,” said Gallo, traded to the Yankees in July. “Not knowing what he's going to throw in any count, balls moving off the plate every which way.”
Kluber threw 61 of 95 pitches for strikes while mixing 31 curveballs, 31 cutters, 16 sinkers, 16 changeups and just one fastball. Batters were 0 for 6 against his cutter.
“I thought stuff was really good and the command’s getting better," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I still think there’s another level for him to go to."
Cleveland leadoff batters reached in four of the first six innings, but New York’s much-maligned defense turned three double plays, two on grounders by Myles Straw and Franmil Reyes. New York put together another when Bobby Bradley strayed too far off first and was doubled up by Judge on Harold Ramírez’s fly to medium right — Judge’s 10th assist this season.
Gallo raised his season total to 37 homers, connecting in the first off Zach Plesac (10-6) and back-to-back with Stanton in the eighth against J.C. Mejia. Gallo is tied with Kansas City’s Salvador Perez for the major league lead with six multi-homer games. New York is 14-1, including the playoffs, when Judge and Stanton homer in the same game.
Judge hit his 35th in the fourth inning, and Gardner greeted Nick Wittgren with a three-run homer in a four-run seventh.
Cleveland lost for the eighth time in 10 games and matched its season worst of three games under .500 at 71-74.
Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland announced in July it is changing its nickname for 2022 and will be known as the Guardians when the team arrives at Yankee Stadium next April 22.
Plesac gave up five runs and seven hits in six-plus innings.
“Besides those two pitches,” he said of the two home runs he allowed, “we were pretty much in control the whole game.”
Indians: Bradley left in the eighth with a tight hip.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020) threw a simulated game before batting practice and reached 96 mph. He could join the Yankees soon. ... RHP Domingo Germán (right shoulder inflammation) is to make a minor league rehabilitation appearance Saturday. ... RHP Jameson Tallion (right ankle tendon) is to throw a bullpen Saturday.