Yankees newcomer Corey Kluber takes another step after 2 lost years

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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TAMPA, Fla. — Corey Kluber overcame occasional wildness, allowing two runs and four hits over four innings in his second start, and the New York Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 on Saturday.

Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner with his third team in three years. He has thrown one inning since being hit on the right forearm by a comebacker in May 2019, none since tearing a muscle in his right shoulder in his Texas debut last July 26. That injury ended his season after one inning.

Kluber hit two batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed a third-inning solo homer to Troy Stokes Jr. He struck out two in an outing when the Pirates went down in order just once.

“Some pitches, probably, could have been located a little better, been a little sharper” Kluber said. “The home run, first pitch, left it a little too much over the plate. Definitely some stuff to work on. Fine tuning location, things like that.”

“I was happy with the way I felt physically,” he said.

The right-hander allowed a leadoff double and hit a batter in the first inning but got out of the jam with a double play. After a perfect second, Kluber gave Stokes’ homer and then avoided further damage by working out of a two-on, one-out situation.

Kluber, who turns 35 in April, struck out three over two perfect innings in his other start on March 3 against Toronto. He had a live batting practice session five days later.

After losing to the eventual AL champion Tampa Bay Rays in a five-game Division Series last year, the Yankees allowed Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ to become free agents. They signed Kluber to an $11 million, one-year contract and acquired Jameson Taillon from Pittsburgh for four prospects.

“Looks like himself,” Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu said, “Ball’s moving all over the place.”

New York’s projected rotation also includes ace Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery. Deivi Garcia and Domingo German are among the candidates for the fifth starter spot.

NOTES: Pirates C Tony Wolters struck out swinging on a pitch from Darren O'Day that hit him in the sixth. Wolters went down to the ground after being struck by the waist-high pitch before walking back to the dugout. “It’s a hard game, it really is,” O’Day said. “I’m not going to gloat about it.” New York closer Aroldis Chapman, who worked a perfect fifth, has found success throwing his split-change. “Really good results,” manager Aaron Boone said. LeMahieu will get playing time at third and first base before the team breaks camp. Yankees OF Aaron Hicks had a bunt single in the third that hugged the foul line until it hit third base. Hicks put both his arms over his head after seeing the ball stay fair. Pittsburgh OF Anthony Alford exited with wrist discomfort after getting hit by Kluber.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.