YANKEES 3, ASTROS 2
Sometimes it takes a couple of Lone Star State boys to take care of some Texas-sized problems. On Friday both right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and outfielder Chris Young did just that for the Yankees at Minute Maid Park.
Houston-born Eovaldi threw six innings of two-run baseball and Houston-born Young’s three-run home run with one out in the seventh gave New York a hard-fought comeback victory over the Astros in front of a paid crowd of 37,748.
Though Eovaldi (7-2) pitched well, the Astros were still able to touch him for single runs in the third and sixth innings.
Hank Conger laced a one-out double to left-center in the third inning and one out later Carlos Correa scored him on a single to center.
The Astros added a run in the sixth on a one-out infield single by Jose Altuve and a stolen base, which set up a two-out bloop RBI single to center by Evan Gattis.
Meanwhile, right-hander Vincent Velasquez held the Yankees scoreless for six innings on just three hits and one walk with two strikeouts.
But the Yankees got a one-out opposite-field single from Carlos Beltran in the seventh and Garrett Jones followed with a bloop single to right.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch replaced Velasquez with right-hander Will Harris, who entered the game with a 0.78 ERA.
Young, who attended nearby Bellaire High School and entered the at-bat 41-for-103 (.398) with eight home runs at Minute Maid Park in his career, blasted a 1-1 fastball well into the left-field bleachers to give the Yankees their first lead in the four-game series.
Left-handers Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson and right-hander Dellin Betances held the Astros hitless the rest of the way to preserve the victory for Eovaldi, who attended nearby Alvin High School just as Hall of Fame right-hander Nolan Ryan did.
In fact, Ryan (who was in attendance at the game) and Eovaldi are the only two products of that high school to play Major League Baseball.
Betances threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball to earn his fifth save six chances this season.
Velasquez was charged with two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings but Harris (4-1) was charged with the loss.
Eovaldi held the Astros to five hits and two walks while he struck six to record his second consecutive quality start.
With the victory the Yankees improved they season record to 40-34 and they climbed to with a half game of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Astros dropped to 43-33.
- Young added a single the eighth inning to end his evening 3-for-4 with two singles, a homer, a run scored and three RBIs. He now is 43-for-105 (.410) at Minute Maid Park. He also extended his hitting streak to nine games. In that span, Young is 17-for-34 (.500) with two homers and eight RBIs. Though Young’s role is primarily to hit against left-handers, injuries to outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Mason Williams have forced the Yankees to use him in an everyday role and Young is responding.
- Eovaldi surpassed his career high in victories with the decision and in his past two outings he has yielded four runs on eight hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts in 12 innings. That has lowered his season ERA to 4.81. It also has saved his job because right-hander Adam Warren has been shifted back to the bullpen.
- Betances came in the eighth with two out and pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez on first after Wilson walked Luis Valbuena. Though Gonzalez stole second, Betances fanned Gattis to end the threat and then pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fifth save in place of injured left-hander Andrew Miller. Betances is 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA and has 61 strikeouts in just 37 1/3 innings.
- The rookie right-hander Velasquez had never made it past the fifth inning in any of his three previous starts. But once again the Yankees were unable to solve a pitcher they had not faced before and made him look better than he really was. The Yankees could not lay off his fastball up and out of the strike zone and subsequently they popped up and flied out 11 times in the first six innings.
- Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann combined to go 0-for-8 in the game. With Alex Rodriguez out the lineup resting, the two just could do nothing right at the plate. Among Teixeira’s outs was a strikeout and a crucial double play he hit into with Brett Gardner at first in the sixth inning. The twin-killing came on a 3-1 pitch.
The Yankees will continue their four-game road series with the Astros on Saturday.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.17 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Tanaka is coming off his worst outing of the season last Saturday when he gave up seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits in five innings against the Detroit Tigers. Tanaka has never faced the Astros.
The Astros will send out left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 2.81 ERA). Oberholtzer had a no-decision on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels. He yielded two runs on four hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. Oberholtzer is 0-2 with a 4.96 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, ASTROS 4
On the final day of April, a day in which the Yankees placed their ninth player on the disabled list, they did pretty much what they have been doing most of the month: Finding a way to win.
Hiroki Kuroda recovered from a shaky first three innings to complete the best April of his career and Travis Hafner continued his hot month with three RBI singles as New York downed Houston on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 34,401 at Yankee Stadium.
Kuroda (4-1) surrendered three hits and four walks in throwing 67 pitches in the first three innings but he stranded all seven base-runners. With Kuroda struggling with his command, pitching coach Larry Rothschild suggested the 38-year-old right-hander try pitching only from the stretch.
Over the next four innings, Kuroda gave up only a leadoff single by Jose Altuve in the fifth inning. Kuroda retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced to earn the victory. He shut out the Astros on four hits and four walks while striking out a season-high eight batters.
Meanwhile, the Yankees wasted no time getting to Astros right-hander Philip Humber (0-6).
Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a infield single off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki. One out later Hafner delivered the first of his three run-scoring singles, a line drive to the opposite field that left-fielder Brandon Barners trapped in his glove to allow Gardner to score.
Hafner delivered again in the third inning after Suzuki reached first on a wild pitch on a swinging third strike. Suzuki advanced to second on a stolen base and scored on Hafner’s single up the middle against an exaggerated Astros’ shift on the left-handed slugger.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth after back-to-back one-out singles by Suzuki and Robinson Cano. After Humber uncorked his second of his three wild pitches of the night, Hafner was walked intentionally and Gardner scored when Brennan Boesch beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
Jayson Nix followed with an RBI single to score Cano.
Humber was touched for four runs on nine hits and two walks while he fanned two in six innings.
The Astros cut the lead in half against reliever David Robertson in the eighth inning when Carlos Pena drew a two-out walk and Chris Carter followed with an opposite field two-run home run to right-center.
The Yankees answered in the bottom of the inning when Lyle Overbay led off the inning with his third home run of the season off reliever Brad Peacock. Eduardo Nunez followed with his third hit of the game – a double to center – and Chris Stewart slapped an RBI single up the middle to chase Peacock.
After one out, Suzuki singled to right off reliever Rhiner Cruz and with two out Hafner closed out the scoring on a bloop single to the opposite field in left that scored Stewart.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Shawn Kelley could not hold the team’s five-run cushion in the ninth.
With two out and a Marwin Gonzalez on first, Robbie Grossman singled to right-center and Altuve followed a two-run double.
Manager Joe Girardi replaced Kelley with Mariano Rivera and Rivera struck out Jason Castro swinging to earn his 10th save in 10 chances.
The Yankees have now won five of their last six games and they completed April with a 16-10 record, which puts them in second place in the American League East. The Astros fell to 8-19.
- Give Kuroda a lot of credit for shutting down the Astros despite the fact he did not initially have his best stuff. With his seven shutout innings, Kuroda lowered his season ERA to 2.25 and he is tied with CC Sabathia for the team lead in victories with four. His career ERA of 3.38 is the lowest of any Japanese pitcher in history.
- Hafner finished the month with a flourish. With his 3-for-4 night, Hafner is hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. His three-RBI game drew him into a tie with Cano for the team lead in RBIs. That is not bad for a player who has not played a full major-league season since 2007. The Yankees have needed his power with so many players injured and Hafner has delivered.
- Two players who have been scuffling most of the month are suddenly getting hot. Suzuki was 3-for-5 and scored two runs. In his last seven games, Suzuki is 11-for-27 (.407) with three runs scored and two RBIs. His hot streak has raised his batting average to .268. Meanwhile, Nunez went 3-for-4 with two doubles and run scored. Since hitting coach Kevin Long tweaked his batting stance, Nunez is 5-for-14 (.357), which has raised his season average to .203.
- The usually reliable Robertson let the Astros back into the contest by giving up the two-run home run to Carter. Robertson had a uncharacteristically poor month in which he was touched for five runs on nine hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings over 11 games. His 4.22 ERA is a product of giving up two homers.
- Kelley may have an excellent slider but he is really having trouble getting ahead in counts to use it. He has surrendered nine runs on 12 hits (four them home runs) and four walks in 10 1/3 innings. He has been scored upon in four of his eight appearances and he soon may be punching his own ticket to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- In his three at-bats in the game, Boesch came up to the plate with six runners on base and he managed to score just one of them. He bounced into an inning-ending double play in the first and then two fielders’ choices. He did drive in a run by beating out a double-play relay in the fifth. The lefty swinging Boesch was 0-for-3 and he is now batting .200 on the season. He is hitting just .167 against righties and .273 against lefties, which is very odd.
The Yankees placed corner infielder Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday after an MRI indicated a lumbar spine sprain. He is the ninth player the Yankees have placed on the DL. Infielder Corban Joseph was recalled from Scranton to take Youkilis’ spot on the roster. Youkilis had missed six games before playing in a game on Saturday. However, Youkilis re-aggravated his back injury in the game and now he can’t be activated until May 13. General manager Brian Cashman and Girardi both admitted playing Youkilis on Saturday was a big mistake. The 34-year-old veteran was hitting .266 with two homers and seven RBIs in 17 games. Joseph, 24, was hitting .273 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 22 games. . . . Injured outfielder Curtis Granderson may soon progress to playing in some minor-league rehab games. Granderson has been sidelined with a fractured right forearm suffered in his first at-bat of spring training on Feb. 24. Meanwhile, first baseman Mark Teixeira has not advanced past taking some dry swings and his return is looking more likely in June. Teixeira is on the disabled list with a partially torn sheath in his right wrist.
The Yankees can take the three-game series against Houston with a victory in the rubber game on Wednesday.
Right-hander David Phelps (1-1, 5.29 ERA) will make his first start of the season as a replacement for injured right-hander Ivan Nova. Phelps, 26, was brilliant in four innings of relief after Nova left Friday’s game with an inflamed right triceps. Phelps gave up one run and struck out a career-high nine. Phelps has never faced the Astros.
The Astros will start veteran left-hander Erik Bedard (0-2, 7.98 ERA). Bedard has not pitched more than four innings in any of his four starts. He has allowed 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last three starts. He is 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, ASTROS 3
Major-league pitchers like to look at the batting averages of the hitters they will face in an upcoming game and Astros pitcher Bud Norris must have relished seeing that Robinson Cano was batting .190 as of Saturday.
Unfortunately for Norris, Cano connected on an 0-2 pitch with two out in the second inning and launched a tape-measure three-run home run over the picnic pavilion in right-field to help New York to defeat Houston in a Grapefruit League game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees led 2-0 beginning the second inning and Norris retired the first two batters before he walked Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. Cano then made him pay for his wildness with a mammoth blast that stretched the Yankees’ lead to 5-0.
Hiroki Kuroda (1-1), making his third start of the spring, turned his most impressive performance to date, giving up just one run on three hits, no walks and he struck out two over his four innings of work. Right-hander Dellin Betances worked a scoreless ninth inning to earn a save.
Norris (1-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up five runs on five hits and four walks in just three innings of work.
Granderson stroked an RBI double to score Gardner with the game’s first run and Andruw Jones added a two-RBI single in the same frame to score Granderson. The Yankees final run came on a solo home run off the bat of Bill Hall in the seventh inning.
With the victory the Yankees evened their spring record at 8-8, The Astros, meanwhile, fell to 7-7.
- It can’t be good news to pitchers that Cano is getting hot. In his last two games, Cano is 2-for-6 with a double and home run and four RBIs. He has raised his spring average over the Mendoza Line at .208.
- Kuroda looked extremely sharp in his four innings of work. Despite the fact he gave up a pair of doubles to J.D. Martinez and Chris Johnson in the fourth, Kuroda showed excellent command of all of his pitches. Kuroda threw 59 pitches and 39 were strikes (66 percent).
- Although a lot of the Yankees have been struggling in the first two weeks of spring games, Granderson is not among that group. He walked and doubled, scored two runs and drove in another on Saturday. He is hitting a sizzling .333 on the spring and it looks like he is ready to start 2012 like he left off in his career year in 2011.
- Mariano Rivera continues to amaze at age 42. He hit the first batter he faced but he still needed just eight pitches to retire the side in the fifth inning. Rivera struck out Brett Wallace on three pitches and then retired Marwin Gonzalez on a double-play grounder. Rivera has not given up an earned run in spring training since the spring of 2008. Amazing!
- Raul Ibanez did draw a walk in the first inning but finished the day 0-for-2 and his spring average has now dipped to a polar-capped .077. Ibanez seems to be just missing good pitches in the strike zone and a bit slow on fastballs. There is still time for him to recover. But Ibanez seems anxious at the plate.
- What a difference a spring makes. Last season Jorge Vazquez tore the cover off the ball and he hit .412. He followed up on that with 32 home runs and 93 RBIs in only 118 games at Triple- A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, Vazquez can’t buy a hit this spring and is hitting an anemic .059.
- Boone Logan struggled for the first time this spring. He gave up two runs on three hits in the eighth inning. Logan had looked sharp in his previous four outings.
Although most all of the Yankees seem to be willing to welcome back Andy Pettitte with open arms, it does not appear right-hander Freddy Garcia is as thrilled as they are. Garcia, who was signed to a one-year contract before the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda and signed Kuroda as a free agent, is trying to win a job in the rotation and now finds Pettitte on his way back also. When asked if the Pettitte signing was good for the team, Garcia said “I don’t know, man. Ask the people. I don’t know. I guess.” . . . Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand) retunred to the starting lineup and was 1-for 2 in his four innings of work against the Astros on Saturday. Nunez was struck on the right hand by a pitch from Austin Hyatt of the Phillies on March 5. . . . Nick Swisher (left groin), Russell Martin (left groin) and Derek Jeter (left calf) all were held of action on Saturday but they could return to action on Tuesday.
The Yankees will travel to Sarasota, FL., on Sunday night for a contest against a split squad of the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees’ scheduled starter will be right-hander Ivan Nova, who will be making his fourth start of the spring. Nova is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA but pitched four scoreless innings against the Red Sox last Tuesday.
The Orioles are scheduled to start right-hander Alfredo Simon, who will be making his second spring start. He has not given up a run in five innings of work.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network.