Newer-year-old Yankees can’t lovingly reflect on their visit to Minute Maid Park, which connects the building with big fights that led to season-ending heartache. There is no time like the present to reverse the script.
Brett Gardner and DJ LeMahieu played their first game in Houston since the 2019 post season and both contributed two-run doubles, while Nestor Cortes threw himself purposefully into another excellent spot start, leading the Yankees to a 4-0 win over the Astros on Friday evening.
New York improved to 3-1 this season against Houston, even though the Yanks still outscored the division-leading Red Sox with nine games at 45-42.
“For us, it’s really important because of the situation we’re in right now,” said shortstop Gleyber Torres. “We are focused on winning as many games as possible. It does not matter whether we play Houston or not; it’s just winning the game and trying to get ahead in each series. ”
The most sustained Yankee – and one who experienced the pin-drop silence of a defeated visiting clubhouse as the Astros advanced in 2017 and ’19 – Gardner opened the scoring with a two-out knock in the fourth inning.
It was the Bombers’ only significant blow against Jake Odorizzi, who spread seven hits over six innings, but Cortes was better and combined with three relievers on a three-hit shutout.
“He was huge for us tonight, just like he seemed to be every time he drives for us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Texas native Lucas Luetge came in as the lineup turned in the fifth, knocking out Jose Altuve to finish the frame and then spanning a perfect sixth to earn the win. Chad Green fired two fruitless innings and Jonathan Loaisiga recorded the final three outs.
“We all know what’s at stake,” Gardner said. “We know where we are in the season [All-Star] pause comes up and [July 30] Trading deadline only a few weeks away. We have a little bit of our back against the wall. It is imperative to play good baseball. ”
Boone said he was hoping for three or four innings from Cortes, who instead delivered 14 outs on 74 yards. The bearded 26-year-old kept the Astros out of balance with a selection of fast balls, sliders and curves, which often changed his delivery as he lowered his ERA to 1.05.
“I think my things have gotten a little better. My command has also become much better, ”Cortes said. “I think that’s what works most for me. A lot of people think I’m a clever leftist, which I am to a certain point, but I think my seats have gotten a little sharper. ”
Players on the Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre roster made a big play with growing bushy mustaches earlier in the year; some dried the slate clean after arriving in New York, but not Cortes.
“It’s a different look,” Cortes said. “Of course, the Yankees do not allow facial hair, but they do allow mustaches. It’s something I roll with. Maybe it’s giving me luck. ”
Boone said he ribbed Cortes about the look when he was promoted, but now the manager sees it as a phone card that “fits him well.”
“No moment is too big for him,” Gardner added. “He is a guy who is very steady, works hard and is always ready.”
LeMahieu provided insurance with a stunning 10-pitch at-bat that faced right-hander Bryan Abreu in the seventh and knocked a basket ball to the left field that earned two runs.
Abreu threw two basket balls to start LeMahieu in a 0-2 hole, but the reigning butcher rejected four lanes while taking three out of the strike zone and running the count full. Abreus’ 10th pitch was a hoop inside, and LeMahieu lashed it against the scoreboard.
“I had a couple of really good bats in front of me,” LeMahieu said. “I was just trying to follow it up and keep the line moving. He threw some good lanes to me and I put a good turn on one. ”