YANKEES 1, ASTROS 0
When two of the top three home run hitting teams in baseball meet at Yankee Stadium with its inviting short right-field porch it only stands to reason that the game will be . . . a pitchers’ duel!
Both the Yankees and Astros went against type but it was the Yankees who managed to win the game on Monday with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
Carlos Beltran scored Brett Gardner with the only run of the game with no outs in the ninth as New York edged Houston to reclaim a share of first place in the American League East in front of a paid crowd of 37,125 in the Bronx, NY.
Yankees right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Astros right-hander Scott Feldman matched each other pitch for pitch for eight innings until Astros manager A.J. Hinch elected to use left-hander and former New York Mets headcase Oliver Perez to pitch the ninth.
Gardner was able to work a leadoff walk and, after Perez uncorked a wild pitch to allow Gardner to reach second, the Astros decided to walk Alex Rodriguez intentionally so Perez could face left-handed hitting Brian McCann.
But Perez ended up also walking McCann to load the bases and Hinch called upon right-hander Chad Qualls to pitch to the switch-hitting Beltran.
Beltran jumped on the first pitch and he lofted the ball into deep center-field to score Gardner easily with the game-winning run.
Left-hander Andrew Miller (2-2) struck out two batters in a scoreless ninth inning to earn the victory in relief. Perez (2-2) was saddled with the loss.
Eovaldi, who entered the game undefeated in his past 11 starts and winner of eight straight decisions, held the Astros to just four hits and three walks and he struck seven in eight innings.
He also managed to kept the Astros 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. He was at his best in the seventh inning after Carlos Correa singled to open the frame and Colby Rasmus drew a walk.
Carlos Gomez laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners but Eovaldi got out of the jam on a fielder’s choice off the bat off Evan Gattis that retired Rasmus roaming too far off second and Luis Valbuena flied out to center.
Feldman, 32, held the Yankees to six hits and he struck out six without issuing a walk in eight innings.
The Yankees had an excellent opportunity to score in the second when Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew opened the inning with singles. But Feldman retired Drew on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury, Gardner struck out swinging and Rodriguez flied out.
The Yankees also had a chance to score with McCann on third and Beltran on first with no outs in the seventh. However, Greg Bird struck out swinging and Chase Headley hit a fly ball to medium center and Gomez was able to throw out the slow-footed McCann at home plate on a three-hop heave for an inning-ending double play.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 69-55 and they jumped into a tie with the Toronto Blue Jays for the top spot in the division. The first-place Astros dropped to 69-57.
- Eovaldi has come a long way in his development as a starter this season. In his past 12 starts, he is 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA. He used his slider to compliment his 100-mile-per-hour fastball, splitter and curveball to keep the Astros guessing all night. The Yankees very quietly are developing a strong, young rotation in 26-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, 26-year-old Michael Pineda (who will be activated form the disabled list on Wednesday), 25-year-old Eovaldi, 27-year-old Ivan Nova and 21-year-old Luis Severino.
- McCann was 3-for-3 with a walk in the game and he is now 5-for-11 (.455) with his new forward-leaning stance. In addition, McCann also managed to throw out pinch-runner Jake Marisnick attempting to steal on a strike out of Valbuena in the ninth inning. McCann has now caught 22 of 55 base-runners stealing this season, which puts him at a career-best 40 percent. McCann credits bullpen coach Gary Tuck. “We work every single day on it,” McCann told reporters. “I’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. It’s good to put the ball on the bag there.”
- Beltran’s night began with him striking out looking in the second and bouncing into a double play in the fourth. But he singled to advance McCann to third before McCann was thrown out to end the seventh. But his at-bat in the ninth was classic Beltran. Though Qualls is noted as a ground-ball pitcher, he was able to get under his first offering and hit it deep enough to get Gardner home with the winning run.
- Rodriguez was placed back into the lineup after two days off but he ended up 0-for-3 with a walk. He struck out in the sixth on a pitch that was about two feet outside and it nearly hit the dirt. Since Aug. 7, Rodriguez is 7-for-57 (.123) with two homers and six RBIs. That has dropped his season average from .281 to .259. As long as he slumps he is killing the Yankees offense.
- Gardner and Ellsbury combined to go 0-for-7 with two strikeouts. If you add Rodriguez batting third they were a combined 0-for-10, which makes you wonder how Perez was able to walk Gardner and Rodriguez to begin the inning. The Yankees need their top three hitters to HIT! If they don’t, the team loses to last-place teams like the Cleveland Indians and surrenders first place in the A.L. East. It’s that simple.
The Yankees will not say it but I will: CC Sabathia has thrown his last pitch of the 2015 season and his career in real jeopardy. Sabathia, 35, was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with inflammation in his right knee. Sabathia left Sunday’s game against the Indians with two out in the third inning due to pain in the knee, which was drained twice this season and received a cortisone shot last week. After making only eight starts last season, Sabathia underwent debridement surgery on the knee and was told that he would have to follow strict procedures to limit recurring pain. Sabathia, who is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA in 24 starts this season, will see a specialist on Tuesday. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters, “Is it possible that he doesn’t pitch the rest of the year? It’s a possibility.” To replace Sabathia on the roster the Yankees announced that left-hander Chris Capuano had elected free agency and then signed a new Major-League contract with the team of the rest of the season. . . . Mark Teixeira, who has been nursing a deep bone bruise on his right leg, said on Tuesday that he was available to pinch-hit in Monday’s game. He was not used and Teixeira has now missed the team’s past six games with the injury. Girardi told reporters that he is hopeful Teixeira will be able to start Tuesday’s game.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Astros on Tuesday.
Nova (5-5, 3.72 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Nova is coming off a loss against the Indians on Thursday in which he was tagged for three runs on six hits and two walks while he struck four in five innings.
The Astros will start left-hander Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.37 ERA). Keuchel did not get a decision while giving up two runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in seven innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.