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 3, ASTROS 2
The hallmark of the spring has been the play of what manager Joe Girardi calls the “Baby Bombers.” On Saturday, they struck again and this time the Astros paid the price.
Jake Cave lofted a sacrifice fly to deep right-field to score pinch-runner Slade Heathcott as New York rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to down Houston at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.
Nick Noonan opened the ninth inning with a ground single to right off right-hander Will Harris (0-1) and Aaron Judge followed with a lined single to left.
One out later, Eddy Rodriguez doubled in Noonan and Judge and advanced to third on a throwing error by left-fielder Andrew Aplin. Heathcott came off the bench to run for Rodriguez and later scored on Cave’s game-winning sac fly.
Left-hander Jacob Lindgren (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the victory.
The Yankees trailed from the first inning when George Springer launched a one-out triple and Chris Carter followed with a two-run home run off right-hander Michael Pineda. It was the first runs Pineda had allowed this spring.
Pineda later settled in and finished up by yielding just the two runs on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings of work.
With the victory the Yankees improved their Grapefruit League record to 12-7.
- It is no accident that the young Yankees like Cave, Judge and Heathcott are leading late rallies. Cave, 23, is 5-for-12 (.417) with a home run and five RBIs. Cave’s spring average is the highest of any Yankee player with 10 or more at-bats. Heathcott, 24, is next on that list. He is 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer an four RBIs. Judge, 23, is 4-for-14 (.286) with a homer and three RBIs. Remember these names because they all could be playing in Yankee Stadium in a few years.
- Even though Pineda, 26, was rocked by a double, a triple and a home run in his outing on Saturday, he did throw well. He struck out five of the last 10 batters he faced. He also ended up throwing 42 of his 56 pitches for strikes. “I’m happy because today is a good outing. I’m feeling good,” Pineda told reporters. “This is very important for me. I’m feeling great.”
- Give a lot of credit also to the bullpen for holding the Astros scoreless. Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey, Nick Rumbelow and Lindgren combined to pitch 5 1/3 innings, yielding only one hit and one walk with eight strikeouts. Yankee pitchers combined to strike out 14 Astros. That is awesome.
- The regulars continue to struggle at home. Mark Teixeira was 2-for-3 and Carlos Beltran, Didi Gregorius and Brian McCann picked up a hit apiece. But Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Chris Young and Stephen Drew combined to go 0-for-10.
- Gardner, 31, is having a particularly bad spring so far. He is 5-for-34 (.147) with no homers and two RBIs. He also leads the team in strikeouts with 10. With just 13 exhibition games remaining it would be nice to see the speedy outfielder pick it up a little.
- Austin Romine, 26, started as the designated hitter and was 0-for-2. He is now 4-for-20 (.200) on the spring. Romine is battling John Ryan Murphy to be McCann’s backup behind the plate. But Murphy, 23, is doing even worse at the plate. He is 2-for-22 (.091), the lowest Yankee average among players with 10 or more at-bats. Romine is out of options so he could end up making the 25-man roster so that Murphy could catch full-time and get regular at-bats at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Gardner gave the crowd something to cheer and laugh about in the first inning. But it was no laughing matter to Girardi. When Young reached the wall on Carter’s blast he leaped to get it and lost his glove over the fence in the process. Gardner took it upon himself to scale the 8-foot fence to retrieve both Young’s glove and Carter’s home run ball. He then climbed back over the fence. Most of the crowd of 9.914 gave Gardner a standing ovation. Girardi, however, was not pleased. “We’ve seen guys hit a home run, jump up and land on the plate and break an ankle,” Girardi told reporters. “I told him, ‘This isn’t Little League.’ Gardy thought he was in the movie The Sandlot or something.”
The Yankees will make a 2 1/2-hour trip south to Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, FL, on Sunday to face the New York Mets.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1) will make the start for the Yankees. Sabathia’s first start on Tuesday against the Blue Jays was a bit shaky. Toronto scored two runs on four hits in two innings. He is scheduled to throw 45 to 50 pitches on Sunday.
Right-hander Matt Harvey, who is on the comeback trail after undergoing Tommy John surgery, will start for the Mets. Harvey is 0-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.