|Expect All-Star-caliber duel between Kluber, Severino|
CLEVELAND -- Pitching matchups don't get much better than the one at Progressive Field Thursday night when the Cleveland Indians host the New York Yankees in the first game of a four-game series.
Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the 2017 Cy Young Award winner, will face the Yankees' Luis Severino, who finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.
The series will pit the best bullpen in the American League against the worst bullpen in the league. The Yankees lead the American League with a 2.74 bullpen ERA while Cleveland has a league-worst 5.37 ERA for its relievers.
Cleveland's bullpen has been in a state of constant flux due to injuries and poor performance. The most costly injuries have been suffered by reliever Andrew Miller, a two-time All-Star who has missed nine weeks of the season with two trips onto the disabled list.
Miller, who earlier in the season missed two weeks with a strained hamstring, has been on the DL since May 26 with right knee inflammation. He is expected to be activated sometime after the All-Star break.
"He's trending in a good way, and that's huge for us," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We're fortunate that it's July, so we've still got time to get him on a roll. He's going to help us a ton."
Without Miller, Cleveland's bullpen has suffered. Tuesday night against Cincinnati, Indians relievers gave up seven runs with two outs in the ninth inning to turn a 4-0 lead into an eventual 7-4 loss.
With Kluber and Severino on the mound Thursday, a high-scoring game seems unlikely. Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) hasn't lost since June 10. In five starts since then he is 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA.
In his last start, Severino beat Toronto 8-5 on Saturday, pitching five innings and allowing three runs on five hits, with five strikeouts and two walks. In two starts against Cleveland last year Severino was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA. In four career starts against the Indians he is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA.
Severino will be challenged by Cleveland's one-two punch of shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez. In a 19-4 blowout of Cincinnati Wednesday night, Lindor and Ramirez combined for three home runs and eight RBIs. Ramirez has hit 27 home runs with 65 RBIs and Lindor has 25 homers and 62 RBIs.
"They're a pretty good tandem," Francona said. "They're both young. They're switch hitters. They the same side of the infield, and they're really good."
Kluber (12-4, 2.49) is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA in seven career regular-season starts against New York. Last year in two regular-season starts against the Yankees he was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA.
Kluber's 2018 season has been a study in contrasts. In his first 14 starts he was 10-2 with a 1.99 ERA. In his last five he is 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA.
In his last start, on Friday against Oakland, Kluber pitched seven scoreless innings on five hits only to see the bullpen blow a 3-0 lead in the last two innings of what became a 6-3 Cleveland loss.
That bullpen added an arm on Wednesday when left-hander Tyler Olson was activated off the DL and lefty Marc Rzepczynski was designated for assignment.