Without a late-inning meltdown or an almost hitless affair, the Yankees, for at least tonight, looked like the Yankees. They took an early lead and held onto it through the game’s completion, an equation they’ve scarcely made good on either half of this season. In a bizarre turn of events, the Yankees relief pitching made light work of a historically great offense, albeit without two of their best hitters in Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, while the Yankees’ sticks scraped together four runs of their own on a dozen hits, none of which left the yard.
In the first, Gary and Judge smoked back-to-back singles bookended by a couple of groundouts to Carlos Correa’s replacement at short, Robel García, with the latter resulting in an inning-ending double play. In the second, the Yankees again got two baserunners on via the single but failed to convert despite having a man on second with just one out.
Meanwhile, Nestor Cortes Jr. made good on his 1.29 ERA entering the contest, limiting the Astros to just a pair of hits through three innings.
Nestor Cortes Jr.'s 1st inning: 11 pitches, nine strikes, retiring the top of the Astros order 1-2-3.#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/D0y9haIojY— YES Network (@YESNetwork) July 10, 2021
The Yankees got another chance to break the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth after a Gio Urshela liner off of Odorizzi left runners, again, on first and second. This time, with two outs, Brett Gardner got his second chance to cash in with a runner in scoring position. Instead of flying out to center, as he did in the second, Gardner worked an 0-2 count back to full and ripped a liner down the right-field line, plating both Yankee baserunners.
Let's get it, Gardy. pic.twitter.com/XAczAoZ1Jx— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 10, 2021
The Cortes show continued until two outs in the bottom of the fifth, when Lucas Luetge took over on the bump. On the day, Cortes allowed only four baserunners to reach base on a pair of hits and walks, stranding three of the runners himself before Luetge came in to leave the last one at sea, helping Cortes conclude his day with just a 1.05 ERA.
Lucas Luetge gets Jose Altuve to strike out swinging on a beauty of a breaking ball!#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/pmJkKBMtkM— YES Network (@YESNetwork) July 10, 2021
In front of friends and family, Luetge, the Brenham, Texas native followed up his timely strikeout of Jose Altuve with another clean inning, retiring all four of the batters he faced.
Entering the game’s final third, DJ LeMahieu found himself with a stellar opportunity to pad the Yankees’ lead. After Gardner walked and Tyler Wade beat the shift down the third-base line for a double, the Yankees held runners on second and third. Like Gardner had two innings earlier, DJ found himself in an 0-2 count but worked the count full after fouling off four pitches. On the 10th pitch of one of the best at-bats of the Yankees’ season, DJ roped a line drive off of the base of the mini-monster in left, plating another two runs for a 4-0 Yankee lead.
Special (DJ) delivery. pic.twitter.com/RH0H4lYtj7— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 10, 2021
By swiftly turning his hips but keeping his upper body loose as he rotated into the pitch that would have been ball-four, DJ was able to expertly drill the inside fastball into left 110 mph without hooking it foul. Following his clinic on how to stay inside the baseball, DJ flashed some crafty baserunning to earn the Yankees an extra man on. By deking Abraham Toro into a delayed and errant throw, DJ bought time for Judge to evade a Yuli Gurriel tag on what was eventually ruled a fielder’s choice.
Chad Green took the baton from Luetge, entering the game with a fresh frame in the seventh. Apparently blessed by the baseball gods, Green was able to hang a goose egg despite allowing a couple of lasers to Astros batters: Kyle Tucker took a fastball 103.6 mph off the top of the centerfield fence for his second double of the game, and Jason Castro lined an atom ball that looked more sharply hit than it was (81.7 mph) to DJ LeMahieu for a lineout that ended the inning.
Green cruised through a less eventful, but equally clean eighth, setting up Aaron Boone to make a discretely big decision about the Yankees' most significant source of recent turmoil. Albeit a non-save situation, Boone opted to turn to Jonathan Loaisiga to close out the ninth, leaving Aroldis Chapman — who has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 10 appearances across 6.2 innings — on the pine beyond the left-centerfield wall. Nonetheless, Jonny Lasagna did his job plenty well enough, earning a quick three outs on nine pitches, including a backward K of Yordan Alvarez on a 100 mph heater.
With two more games to go in the series, and Gerrit Cole looking to stop his skid tomorrow at 7:15 EST, the Yankees are poised to enter the All-Star break with some wind at their backs as they hope to make a second-half push for the playoffs.