Yankees’ Gray looks to find his form vs. Indians

NEW YORK — Among those waiting for Sonny Gray to deliver an effective start, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone might be his most vocal advocate.

While Gray has had a slow start, his new manager speaks in optimistic tones about the right-hander.

Although he took a loss five days ago, Gray delivered his best outing of the season, and the Yankees are hoping to see more positive results Saturday when they continue a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium.

Gray will take the mound following a pair of pulsating victories for the Yankees, who are 13-1 in their last 14 games. After getting a 6-5 win on Thursday in Houston, the Yankees blew a five-run lead, overcame two wild pitches by Aroldis Chapman and opened the series with a 7-6 win Friday on rookie Miguel Andjuar’s walk-off RBI single off Cody Allen in the ninth inning.

Gray’s first month of this season can be best described as middling and inconsistent as he is 1-2 with a 6.67 ERA while struggling to throw first-pitch strikes. Although he was on the losing end of a 2-1 decision Monday at Houston, Gray allowed just two runs and four hits while matching a season high with six innings.

“The stuff is fine,” Boone said before Friday’s game. “The stuff is good. I think he’s really close to getting to that point where he can be a really good pitcher for us.

“That’s our expectation and I think a lot of it for him comes down to being aggressive in the strike zone, especially early in the count. I thought that was much improved last time out and I’m excited where he right now.”

Gray showed something by getting ahead of 14 of the 25 hitters he faced in his last start. He threw 97 pitches and 42 were four-seamers resulting in five strikeouts.

Gray is 5-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 17 starts since the Yankees obtained him July 31 for three prospects from the Oakland Athletics.

Austin Romine started at catcher in Gray’s last start, and though Boone is not a fan of using personal catchers, numbers indicate Gray’s performances with Romine have been better than with Gary Sanchez catching.

In four games throwing to Romine, he is 1-1 with a 3.92 ERA. In two starts pitching to Sanchez, he is 0-1 with a 15.63 ERA.

“Ultimately, it’s for me personally, I want to feel comfortable no matter what,” Gray said.

Gray is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against the Indians. He allowed two earned runs on four hits in six innings during his debut as a Yankee Aug. 3 at Cleveland and allowed three runs, three hits and four walks over 3 1/3 innings during Game 1 of last year’s ALDS.

Trevor Bauer (2-2, 2.45 ERA) starts for the Indians five days after striking out 11 in a no-decision against the Texas Rangers. Before Cleveland rallied for a 7-5 victory, he allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings while throwing 122 pitches in his 10th double-digit strikeout game.

Bauer has been in the news for starting a twitter controversy when he criticized the spin rate of Houston Astros right-hander Charlie Morton on the four-seam fastball while hinting the Astros were using substances to impact the movement.

“We might not have had the technology before to measure how sticky stuff affects the ball, how it spins, how it moves, but all that research is clear now,” Bauer said. “We know how it affects spin rate and we know how spin rate affects outcomes and pitches and movements that have a big difference in a game, a season and each individual player’s career.”

Bauer has never reached double-digit strikeouts in consecutive games and is 3-4 with a 4.20 ERA in eight regular-season starts against the Yankees. He also is 1-1 with a 2.87 ERA in three regular-season starts at New York.

The right-hander also was 1-1 and did not give up an earned run in two postseason starts against the Yankees last year. He struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings and was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the ALDS, when Gray was losing pitcher. Bauer then allowed four unearned runs in 1 2/3 innings in a 7-3 loss in Game 4.