ASTROS 3, YANKEES 1
When the Yankees ended spring training knowing they were starting the season with the lowly Astros it seemed the perfect way to start the season with a completely revamped starting lineup. After what happened on Wednesday the Yankees should be careful what they wish for.
The Astros scored a pair of early runs against Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees – for the second straight evening – could not muster an offense as Houston defeated New York in front of a paid crowd of 23,145 at Minute Maid Park.
Dexter Fowler, who is 4-for-8 in the series, had a hand in both Astros runs off the right-handed Kuroda (0-1).
Fowler ripped Kuroda’s second offering in the first inning into the center-field bleachers to give the Astros an early 1-0 lead. Two innings later, Fowler laced a one-out triple to deep center and he scored on RBI grounder off the bat of Robbie Grossman that was misplayed by Mark Teixeira.
Kuroda gave up two runs on only there hits and one walk while he fanned five batters in six innings. But he could have sued the Yankees hitters for nonsupport.
The Yankees offense just could not push any runs across against Astros 23-year-old right-hander Jarred Cosart (1-0).
Cosart shut out the Yankees on four hits, he did not walk a batter and he struck out three in his five innings of work.
They did not fare much better against the four relievers who followed Cosart.
The Yankees did finally score a run in the seventh inning after Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk from left-hander Kevin Chapman and Brian Roberts followed with his third consecutive single to advance Gardner to third.
Manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for Kelly Johnson with rookie Yangervis Solarte and, in his first major-league at-bat, Solarte hit into a double play that scored Gardner.
The Astros got that run back in the bottom half of the seventh when Matt Dominguez touched right-hander David Phelps for an opposite-field home run into the right-field bleachers. In the first two games of the series, the Astros have hit four home runs and the Yankees have none.
Right-hander Josh Fields pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his first save of the season.
The Yankees stranded eight runners and were a combined 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
- Do not blame this loss on Kuroda. Unlike CC Sabathia in the the season opener, Kuroda, 39, held the Astros to just two runs in six innings. This has been the story of Kuroda’s major-league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Yankees. He pitches well and he does not get the run support to show for the effort. That is why his career record is 68-71 and his ERA is a sparkling 3.40, the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher from Japan.
- Roberts did his part for the offense. He was 3-for-4 with three singles that helped ignite scoring opportunities that his teammates failed to capitalize upon. Roberts, 36, is trying to re-establish his career after suffering through four seasons marred by injury. The early results show that he still has a lot left in the tank.
- The Yankees managed just seven hits and Brian McCann and Roberts combined to post seven of them. McCann, 30, was 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. McCann is 3-for-8 with an RBI in the first two games hitting out of the cleanup spot. The five-time Silver Slugger award winner looks very comfortable at the plate in the early part of the season.
- Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano, batting fifth and sixth, respectively, were a combined 0-for-8 in the game, they struck out five times and they stranded seven base-runners. If you need to point at the two biggest culprits in the Yankees’ demise in this game you need to look no further than this pair. Soriano actually swung and missed at two pitches that hit the dirt and one of those pitches nearly hit him. In the first two games Soriano is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts.
- The Yankees have had a history of not being able to hit pitchers they know little about and Wednesday’s game was another example. Cosart was making only his 11th major-league start and his first against the Yankees. The Yankees managed to get their first hit and base-runner with one out in the third inning on Roberts’ single. McCann added a two-out single in the fourth. Then Gardner and Roberts hit back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth. But Johnson into a fielder’s choice and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out and Cosart left the game without yielding a run.
- The inning that defined the evening is the eighth. Carlos Beltran led off with a double against right-handed reliever Matt Albers. However, McCann, Teixeira and Soriano all struck out swinging. Futility is contagious.
Former teammates Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Mike Stanton were among the guests who honored Jeter before the game with a ceremony marking his impending retirement. The Astros presented him with a pair of pinstriped cowboy boots emblazoned with his No. 2, a huge Stetson hat and a free stay and golf lessons at a golf resort operated by Astros owner Jim Crane. The Astros players all came out of the dugout to give a standing ovation to Jeter before he took his first at-bat. Jeter tipped his batting helmet to the crowd.
The Yankees will try to salvage one game and some of their pride in the final game of the series with the Astros on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.66 ERA in spring truing) will make his 2014 debut after ending the 2013 season as the team’s best pitcher in the second half of the season. Nova, 27, was 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA last season.
The Astros will counter with24-year-old right-hander Brett Oberholtzer (0-2, 11.00 ERA). Oberholtzer was 4-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 13 games (10 of them starts) with the Astros last season.
Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, ASTROS 4
With the loss of some free agents and a spate of injuries to some key players most people thought the New York Yankees would have to play baseball exactly the way they played it on Wednesday night. I mean how many teams win a game by delaying the execution of a opponent’s double play?
That is exactly how the Yankees beat the Astros, though.
Lyle Overbay delayed running from first base on a double-play grounder in order to allow Eduardo Nunez to score the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning and the team’s strong bullpen protected the lead as New York edged Houston and claimed the series victory in front of a paid crowd of 34.117 at Yankee Stadium.
Nunez opened the sixth against Astros reliever Paul Clemens (1-1) with a line-drive double off the wall in the left-field corner and he advanced to third on a wild pitch while Overbay was at the plate. Overbay then was able to coax a walk.
One out later, Astros manager Bo Porter brought in left-hander Wesley Wright to pitch to Ichiro Suzuki. On a 3-2 pitch, Suzuki hit a slow-hop grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve. Overbay, realizing it would be an inning-ending double play, stopped a few steps off first, forcing Altuve to throw to first to retire Suzuki.
Overbay then broke for second and was eventually tagged out by first baseman Carlos Pena. However, Nunez was able to cross home plate before Overbay was tagged out to break the 4-4 tie.
Boone Logan (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory for the Yankees.
David Robertson and Mariano Rivera then mowed down the Astros in the final two innings to seal the victory. Rivera pitched the ninth to earn his 11th save in 11 opportunities this season.
The Yankees actually looked like they would coast to an easy victory when they got out to an early 4-0 lead by scoring singles runs in the first and second innings and adding a pair of in the third off Astros left-hander Erik Bedard.
Jayson Nix followed Suzuki’s leadoff triple in the first with a RBI single to plate the Yankees’ first tally of the game.
After Bedard loaded the bases by walking the first three batters in the second, Chris Stewart lofted a sacrifice fly with one out to increase the lead to 2-0.
Robinson Cano then greeted Bedard with a home run blast into the bleachers in right-field for his eighth home run of the season. Two outs later, slumping outfielder Ben Francisco then added another run with a line-drive solo shot into the left-field bleachers for his first home run and first RBI as a Yankee.
Bedard lasted only four innings, giving up four runs on six hits and four walks while striking out two batters.
However, David Phelps, making his first start of the season replacing injured right-hander Ivan Nova in the rotation, was unable to hold the lead.
With one out, Altuve singled, Juan Castro doubled to advance Altuve to third and Pena scored Altuve with a hard-hit single off Nunez at shortstop.
Phelps then hit Chris Carter and Fernando Martinez with pitches with Martinez getting credit for RBI for scoring Castro.
Brandon Barnes then drove in Pena by beating out a potential double-play ball by sliding head-first into first base just ahead of the relay throw from Cano.
Matt Dominguez then closed out the scoring with an RBI single to right that scored Carter to tie the game.
Phelps pitched 5 2/3 innings and was touched for eight hits and two walks, in addition to the two hit batters, while he fanned five.
While winning the series, the Yankees also have won six of their past seven games. They increased their season record to 17-10 and they are two games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Astros fell to 8-20.
- Though Suzuki did hit into the crucial double play in the sixth, he still was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored in the game. Suzuki, 39, is now 13-for-31 (.419) in his last eight games and that has raised his season average from .200 to .279.
- Overbay is helping the Yankees in a lot of ways this season. Some things like his game-winning home run off R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday show up in the box-score. Some things like his delay in running to second on a sure double play do not. Overbay is hitting only .247 but he does have four home runs and 12 RBIs. But Overbay’s biggest contribution has been his defense at first. On Wednesday, Overbay was 1-for -2 with a double and two walks.
- Some experts thought that Rivera could not recover from a serious knee injury at age 43 and pitch well this season. Well, they were dead wrong. Rivera is 11-for-11 in save chances and has a 1.59 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. It seems the future Hall of Fame closer has not lost anything.
- Phelps looked great in his first three innings, pitching to the minimum and only surrendering a leadoff single to Pena in the second. But he totally lost command in the fourth and cost himself what could have been victory. Phelps, 26, is still a talented young right-hander but it seems that after pitching as a starter all spring and then switching to the bullpen left him vulnerable as his pitch count increased. He should be able to pitch better as he gets re-acclimated to going further in games.
- Though Stewart did drive in the Yankees’ second run on a sac fly in the second inning, he really hurt them team with his last thee at-bats. Stewart made an unproductive out when popped out after Overbay led off the fourth with a double. He followed that by striking out looking with runners on first and third and no outs in the sixth just before Overbay won the game with his delayed double play. Then Stewart grounded out to third base with Overbay on first and Brett Garner on third and one out in the eighth.
- Stewart stranded five runners but Nix did him one better by stranding six. Nix popped out with the bases loaded to end the second inning. He also struck out swinging to end the eighth with the sacks full. Nix is hitting .221 on the season and the Yankees need him to step up in the absence of Kevin Youkilis.
The Yankees acquired infielder Chris Nelson from the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday in exchange for cash considerations and a player to be named later. Nelson, 27, is 16-for-66 (.242) with the Rockies this season before he was designated for assignment on Sunday. Nelson is a right-handed hitter who can play both second and third base. To add Nelson to the 40-man roster, the Yankees shifted catcher Francisco Cervelli to the 60-day disabled list. In order to get Nelson onto the 25-man roster, the Yankees are expected to option infielder Corban Joseph, who was called up on Monday, back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. . . . Youkilis told reporters on Wednesday that his strained lower back feels much better after he received an epidural injection and he expects to be able to rejoin the team when he is eligible to be activated on May 13.
The Yankees will take a well-deserved break on Thursday before opening a weekend home series against the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (4-2, 3.35 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Sabathia allowed four runs (three earned) in seven innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday. He has completed at least seven innings in his past five starts. He is 8-8 with a 4.56 ERA in his career against the A’s.
Right-hander A.J. Griffin (2-2, 4.65 ERA) will pitch for Oakland. Griffin has allowed 13 runs over his last 17 innings and is 0-2 in his past three starts. He is 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA in his only start against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.