The Yankees were having a tough enough time getting hits off Josh Tomlin and the Indians' bullpen when manager Joe Girardi took exception with a called third strike in the ninth to Brian McCann.
Girardi was ejected by plate umpire Dan Iassogna while New York was trying to mount a rally against Cleveland closer Cody Allen on Thursday night, a comeback that fell short with a 3-2 loss in the opener of a four-game series.
"I just want the strike zone to be right," Girardi said. "I want the strike zone to be the strike zone. And I know they're not going to be perfect. I understand that. But it's a real important time."
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Trailing 3-1, Alex Rodriguez led off the ninth with a single and surprised most everyone in the ballpark by stealing second. McCann then struck out looking and hung around to question Iassogna's call. Several players took exception with the strike zone throughout the game and Iassogna gave McCann considerable time to speak.
Girardi, on the other hand, raced from the dugout and was tossed before he reached home plate.
"I ejected him for leaving his position to argue balls and strikes," Iassogna told a pool reporter.
Girardi proceeded to dig a line in the dirt with his foot along one side of home plate and briefly yelled at Iassogna.
Allen said the delay didn't bother him, but he gave up an RBI single to the next batter, Carlos Beltran.
Rookie Greg Bird then walked before Chase Headley grounded to first to put runners on second and third, and Didi Gregorius -- with fans chanting his name -- flied out to left field to end it for Allen's 24th save.
"This place can get rockin', we've seen it," Allen said.
Tomlin (1-1) kept Yankee Stadium quiet for seven innings. In his second start since returning from shoulder surgery, he only allowed A-Rod's 680th career home run leading off the fourth and a double to Headley in seven deliberate innings.
"I Just think the way he moved the ball around and spotted, changed speeds, used his cutter pretty effectively, pitched inside pretty effectively," Girardi said of Tomlin. "Just seemed to really locate and seemed to be ahead of our hitters the whole night."
Lonnie Chisenhall hit an RBI double, and Michael Brantley -- still limited to designated hitter because of a sore shoulder -- and Jose Ramirez had RBI singles off Ivan Nova (5-5).
Working as slowly as Tomlin, Nova got in trouble twice because of walks. Chisenhall hit a hot shot to right-center to score Carlos Santana from first in the second, and Ramirez drove in Almonte after the center fielder walked in the fourth.
Nova had won four of his previous five starts, but he failed to get to the sixth Thursday, needing 94 pitches for five innings.
"You're going to have days like this," Nova said. "Not going to feel perfect every time you go out there."
Indians: RHP Gavin Floyd (elbow surgery) gave up four runs while getting one out in his first rehab start. He's been out all season. General manager Chris Antonetti said Floyd was healthy and felt great. He also said Floyd could possibly return late this season, but "there are a number of things that need to happen before that. But Gavin deserves a ton of credit for the way he has embraced the rehab process."
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (forearm strain) is scheduled to throw about 65 pitches for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre in his second and likely final rehab start. ... 1B Mark Teixeira (right shin bruise) was still out of the starting lineup, but Girardi said the slugger "was moving around better today."
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (11-9) has the lowest average against (.184) when pitching on the road. He's 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA in his last seven outings away from Progressive Field. He gave up two runs and four hits over eight innings against New York in Cleveland on Aug. 11.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka is coming off a complete game win at Toronto. He was tagged for five runs and 10 hits over 6 2-3 innings in his only start against Cleveland, last season.
Antonetti on the Indians' outfield of Ramirez, Chisenhall and Almonte: "You could've given me 1,000 guesses and I wouldn't have come up with that."
The Yankees ran onto the field before the first inning through two lines of special-needs cheerleaders from the Hunterdon Huskies Contender cheerleading team of High Bridge, New Jersey, as part of the HOPE Week initiative.