At times, the Yankees seemed to be trying as hard as they could to drop a home series to the Astros, as they left 20 men on base and David Phelps blew a 4-0 lead. That did not come to fruition though, and a bases-loaded double play allowed the go-ahead run to score in the sixth inning. The bullpen was superb--Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera combined to allow only two hits, no runs, and no walks in 3.1 innings.
The game started off quite well for the Yankees. Ichiro Suzuki laced a leadoff triple to right-center field off Astros starter Erik Bedard and immediately scored on a soft single by Jayson Nix. It was the only time tonight that Nix would be useful at the plate. Phelps faced the minimum through three innings as the Yankees tacked on another run in the second on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Chris Stewart to score Travis Hafner. It was also the only time tonight that Stewart would be useful at the plate. It was not the only time tonight that the Yankees would blow a huge scoring opportunity--Bedard had walked the bases loaded with no one out, and the Yanks only got the one run out of it.
Robinson Cano added one to the lead by belting a low pitch from Bedard up and over the fence leading off the third inning. Bobinson's blast was his team-leading eighth of the season, a mark exceeded by only Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion in the American League right now. Cano's dinger was not a shock; however, Ben Francisco's long ball was a stunner.
Tapped for the lineup against the lefty Bedard, Francisco had three total bases on the season and a .103 slugging percentage entering his plate appearance two batters after Cano's homer. Ecstatic about leaving his horrid April behind, Francisco launched a high, arcing drive down the left field line that went over the fence for his first Yankee homer. His total bases for the season more than doubled, and his slugging percentage rose 130 points to .233. Maybe it was just a blind squirrel discovering a nut, but it was still nice to see Francisco not failing for once. The Yanks had a 4-0 lead and Phelps was cruising.
The good vibes fizzled after a frustrating fourth for Phelps. A one-out Jose Altuve single and Jason Castro double soon led to veteran Carlos Pena driving Altuve in on an infield single to put the Astros on the board. Phelps then grazed Chris Carter with a pitch to load the bases, then hit Fernando Martinez to bring home another run. A fielder's choice and single to #8 hitter Matt Dominguez tied up the ballgame; the Astros batted around Phelps. Picking Altuve off at first base in the fifth might have saved Phelps from allowing Houston to take the lead, as Castro followed it with a double that would have scored the short second baseman.
The Astros bullpen limited the Yankees to one run over the next four innings as the Yankees blew numerous scoring opportunities. Nix and Stewart combined to leave 10 men on base throughout out the game. The slim lead was enough though, as Logan, Robertson, and Rivera kept the Astros in check.
The Yanks have their first off-day in awhile tomorrow, then start a three-game home series against the Oakland Athletics on Friday. Robertson limped off the mound in the eighth inning after a misstep, but he said he felt fine after icing his ankle after the game.