The Yankees won their second consecutive game over a rival on Thursday, beating the Astros, 4-3, before a rowdy crowd at Yankee Stadium.
“The fans were definitely into it,” said Anthony Volpe, who experienced his first taste of the feud. “There was an awesome, great atmosphere, and we definitely fed off it.”
The foes traded blows throughout the game, but Volpe’s sixth-inning RBI single gave the Yankees the lead for good. The hit scored Harrison Bader, who walked and stole second base.
The Yankees, now 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot, scored their first three runs in the opening frame with a pair of dingers off Astros right-hander Cristian Javier. Giancarlo Stanton got the scoring started with a two-run blast, his second home run in as many days. Billy McKinney immediately followed with a solo shot.
“Right now, it’s just about how can I help us win each night,” said Stanton, who is hitting .204 this season. “I can’t be trying to catch up to a bad couple months.
“I’m having good at-bats, not-so-good at-bats, so a little back and forth. But the point is to try to be productive to help us win each night.”
A thorn in the Yankees’ side in the past, Javier only gave the Astros 4.2 innings. The pinstripers made him throw 102 pitches.
“Just heavier, tougher, grindier,” Aaron Boone said of the Yankees’ recent at-bats. “All those things that at times over the years have been really strong suits for us. We want to make you feel the at-bats.
“We’re getting a little better there.”
Houston responded quickly after the first inning, however, as a Jake Meyers groundout and a Martín Maldonado single gave them two runs off Clarke Schmidt in the second inning.
But Schmidt didn’t allow any more runs to the Astros, who the Yankees are trailing in the Wild Card race. Instead, the young righty lasted five innings while totaling four hits, one walk, four strikeouts and 82 pitches.
Schmidt has now recorded 13 straight starts in which he’s held the opposition to three runs of fewer.
“We’re really kind of nailing it on our lanes that we can kind of focus on as far as areas that we can pitch to,” Schmidt said when asked what’s allowed him to reach this level of consistency. “We have really good game plans, and I’m starting to really dial in my pitch package. It’s just kind of like a perfect storm of confidence and commanding the ball and getting to good areas and just executing pitches.”
The Astros scored one more run on a Kyle Tucker homer in the sixth. That came off Wandy Peralta.
With one close game in the books, the Yankees and Astros have three more to play this weekend.
Friday’s contest features a pitching matchup between Astros rookie Hunter Brown and Luis Severino, who desperately needs to show signs of improvement. Severino, an impending free agent, has a 7.49 ERA over 12 starts this season.
Saturday’s game will mark Justin Verlander’s 2023 Astros debut, as the team reacquired the future Hall of Famer in a deal with the Mets prior to the trade deadline. The Yankee killer blanked the Bombers for six innings on July 25 in what proved to be his second-to-last start for the Mets.
“Houston was the No. 1 choice for me,” Verlander said Thursday. He had to waive a no-trade clause to return to Houston.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are getting a starter of their own back on Saturday, as Nestor Cortes is set to return from a rotator cuff strain. However, Cortes is only going to throw about 60 pitches. Between that and Severino’s struggles, the Yankees could need serious length from the bullpen over the next two days.
José Urquidy will rejoin the Astros’ staff on Sunday following his own shoulder injury. He will duel against Carlos Rodón, who owns a 6.29 ERA over his first five starts with the Yankees.