CLEVELAND (AP) — Gerrit Cole was one pitch better than Shane Bieber in a heavyweight matchup of aces as Rougned Odor and Aaron Hicks homered off Cleveland’s Cy Young winner in the fifth inning, giving the New York Yankees a 2-1 win over the Indians on Saturday.
Cole (3-1) struck out 11 and allowed just three hits in seven innings to beat Bieber (2-2) in a rematch of their meeting in last year’s playoffs. Cole’s 50 strikeouts in his first five starts are the most for any pitcher in New York’s storied history.
Bieber fanned nine — the first time he hasn’t reached double digits in five starts — and tied Hall of Famer Randy Johnson’s record with his 17th straight start of at least eight strikeouts.
The 25-year-old right-hander allowed just three hits, but two were homers while throwing a career-high 119 pitches.
After Cole was pulled following his 111th pitch, Justin Wilson got two outs in the eighth. With closer Aroldis Chapman unavailable after pitching three times in four days, Jonathan Loaisiga came on and finished up for his first career save.
New York’s bullpen has pitched 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the series.
The Yankees won their third straight in the four-game series after stumbling into Progressive Field with the AL’s worst record.
Two of baseball’s best, Cole and Bieber traded pitch for pitch, strike for strike and strikeout for strikeout over seven innings.
With the two All-Stars on top of their games, one run might have been enough and the Indians pushed one across in the fourth on Eddie Rosario’s soft RBI single.
Rosario’s hit scored José Ramírez, who tripled and nearly had a home run if not for right fielder Aaron Judge leaping at the wall and knocking his deep drive back onto the field.
Bieber’s slim lead was short-lived.
After striking out in his first at-bat, Hicks led off the fifth by driving a 1-2 pitch over the wall in right-center for his second homer in two days and third this season to tie it 1-1.
Bieber struck out the next two batters before Odor, who hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the series opener and one of four Yankees homers on Friday night, sent a pitch 426 feet into the center-field bullpen.
Bieber was hoping to avoid the same fate as his matchup with Cole last September, when the Yankees battered the eventual Cy Young winner in Game 1 of the wild-card round opener for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings as New York won 12-3.
That outing stuck with Bieber over the winter, fueling him.
“A sour taste,” he said Friday.
There was plenty of buildup for the Cole-Bieber tilt and it delivered.
“If I was paying to watch the game, it would be one of the more anticipated — I get it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I’m just sitting here trying to figure out, we’ve got to score enough runs to win this game. Because it can be challenging.
“I mean, he’s really good. Now, fortunately so is our guy. ”
The two homers hit by Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Friday had respective exit velocities of 118 mph and 115.7 mph. He’s the first player n the Statcast era (since 2015) to record to multiple home runs with velocities of at least 115 mph in the same game.
Exit velocity has become a trendy stat, and Francona understands why fans are fascinated in it. He said it’s not indicative of who may be “the most complete hitter” and mentioned DJ LeMahieu, Ramirez and José Altuve as examples of players who hit the ball hard to all fields.
“It certainly isn’t the end all to be all,” he said.
Yankees RHP Jameson Taillon (0-1) starts the series finale against Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie (0-0).
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports