Corey Kluber was so good, he even smiled.
The right-hander handcuffed Detroit batters Sunday to earn his 100th career win with his most dominant performance since 2018. The pitcher nicknamed Klubot for his robot-like demeanor grinned when congratulated in the dugout after his final inning.
“I’m not the most vocal or most emotional person in the clubhouse,” he explained after the Yankees’ 2-0 victory, “but I wouldn’t say that I don’t ever have a good time.”
A day after Jameson Taillon’s first win in exactly two years, Kluber combined on a two-hitter that helped the Yankees (14-14) complete their first series sweep this season and get back to .500 for the first time since they were 5-5.
Before last month, Kluber had pitched one inning since May 1, 2019, because of a broken forearm when hit by a comebacker and a torn shoulder muscle. Kluber challenged himself “to kind of get back to maybe a level you expect of yourself.”
“I tried to be realistic about it, that it probably wasn’t going to be just flip a switch and feel like I like to feel out there, I’m accustomed to feeling out there,” he said.
Kluber (2-2) looked like the pitcher who won A.L. Cy Young Awards with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017.
He allowed two hits in eight innings, walked one and struck out 10 to reach double digits for the 47th time but first since Sept. 24, 2018. Kluber threw 74 of 103 pitches for strikes.
“When he’s in the zone, it’s kind of like — good luck,” said catcher Kyle Higashioka, who is gaining playing time from Gary Sanchez.
Kluber’s fastball was “only” 91 miles per hour but he induced 18 swinging strikes — 13 alone on 83-86 m.p.h. changeups that tamed a Tigers team that saw its season batting average dropped to a major league-worst .195.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone appreciates Kluber’s reserved demeanor.
“Obviously, he’s a little understated and quiet and methodical and workmanlike and very routine-oriented,” Boone said.
Kluber got 11 outs on grounders, two on infield popups and one on a lineout to second baseman Rougned Odor in short right field. Detroit’s only flyout was by Robbie Grossman leading off the ninth against Aroldis Chapman, who struck out his next two batters to remain perfect in six save chances.
Kluber retired his final eight batters, reaching the Yankees’ season high for innings, and lowered his E.R.A. to 3.03 — down from 6.10 after his third start.
“We could tell pretty early on that they, especially the lefties, were looking to jump on stuff on the inner part of the plate, whether it be a cutter or fastball,” he said. “Once we got them sped up, the changeup was effective.”
The Yankees won in 2 hours 14 minutes, their shortest game over nine innings since May 15, 2019.
“The first few weeks we didn’t start like we wanted,” outfielder Brett Gardner said, “but the last week, week and a half, we have played a little better and hopefully, obviously, that continues into May, and as the weather heats up we’ll heat up as a team.”
Overturned Homer Lets Mets Hang on for Win
Pete Alonso capped the Mets’ six-run eighth inning with a three-run double, and the Mets used a defensive meltdown by Philadelphia and a replay reversal to beat the Phillies by 8-7 on Sunday night.
Michael Conforto snapped a tie with a bases-loaded walk against Jose Alvarado, driving in Jose Peraza, and Alonso followed with a liner off David Hale that split the gap in right-center and went all the way to the wall for an 8-4 lead.
Philadelphia got a run back in the ninth on Roman Quinn’s R.B.I. triple. After a Matt Joyce walk, Rhys Hoskins hit an opposite-field drive off Edwin Diaz that was initially ruled a tying three-run homer first base umpire Jose Navas.
A replay review showed the ball hit the top railing of the fence on the out-of-town scoreboard in right, never clearing the wall itself. Hoskins was placed at second with a two-run double.
Diaz then departed with an injury and Jeurys Familia struck out Bryce Harper on a high fastball, earning his first save.
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