Cole outduels Bieber in ace matchup, Yankees edge Indians

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New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND – The marquee pitching matchup met high expectations. And as usual, Gerrit Cole exceeded them for the Yankees.

“He answered the bell again,” New York manager Aaron Boone said.

Cole was one pitch better than Shane Bieber in a heavyweight matchup of two of baseball's best and Rougned Odor and Aaron Hicks homered off Cleveland's Cy Young winner in the fifth inning, giving New York a 2-1 win over the Indians on Saturday.

Cole (3-1) struck out 11 and allowed just three hits in seven innings — he retired the final 11 batters he faced — 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.

“He was terrific in obviously a game where we needed him to be really, really good,” Boone said. “Really strong outing by our ace.”

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.

“I thought he pitched his heart out,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He gave up two solo homers in the fifth, one on the fastball he didn’t locate, another one on a changeup. That was pretty good hitting. But I mean, he fought his command at times, especially early, but he competed so much and golly, that was a pretty damn good effort.”