Yankees take rubber match with Astros
Lyle Overbay's smart baserunning was just that sort of play.
Robinson Cano homered and Eduardo Nunez scored the go-ahead run after a sixth-inning double to send New York past the Houston Astros 5-4 on Wednesday night.
With the game tied 4-all, Nunez doubled down the left-field line on an 0-2 pitch from Paul Clemens (1-1) to begin the sixth. Nunez advanced on a wild pitch and, with one out and runners at the corners, Wesley Wright was brought in to face speedy Ichiro Suzuki.
He hit a grounder to second base and Overbay alertly stopped between first and second, forcing Jose Altuve to make his throw to first base to try for a double play.
That eliminated the force at second, though, and Nunez crossed the plate before Overbay was tagged out, giving New York the lead.
''I'm out anyway either way,'' said Overbay, who had just been reminded by first base coach Mick Kelleher to avoid getting tagged out in a double play. ''It was kind of a no-brainer.''
Just before that, Houston manager Bo Porter went to the mound and instructed his infielders to throw home on a grounder. Suzuki's slow roller, however, left Altuve without a good choice.
''Ichiro, he just hit the perfect ball,'' Astros first baseman Carlos Pena said.
Ben Francisco hit his first home run for the Yankees and three relievers supplied spotless work after fill-in starter David Phelps wasted a four-run lead. New York held on to take two of three games in a series between the teams with the highest and lowest payrolls in the majors.
The active roster New York took into opening day added up to $233 million in salaries, dwarfing a $22 million total for the rebuilding Astros. Still, the banged-up Yankees, missing a cadre of ailing All-Stars, didn't have an easy time scratching out two wins after Houston rolled to a 9-1 rout Monday night.
''If we get that kind of effort and play baseball the way we played here these three games, we're going to win a lot of ballgames,'' Porter said.
Boone Logan (2-1) got four outs for the win. David Robertson struck out two in a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera closed for his 11th consecutive save to start the season.
Robertson said he tweaked his left hamstring, near his knee, as he broke to cover first base on a grounder. But he doesn't think it will be a problem.
''We pulled together and got a nice win today. It was a tough ballgame, they fought us real hard,'' Robertson said.
After a leadoff single in the ninth, Brandon Barnes was running on the pitch when Matt Dominguez hit a line drive that was caught by Cano in full stride at second base.
He easily tagged Barnes for an unassisted double play, and Rivera whiffed Marwin Gonzalez on three pitches to end it.
''It was one of those bad breaks. But we went down swinging,'' Pena said.
Astros starter Erik Bedard fell behind after 11 pitches when Suzuki hit a leadoff triple and scored on Jayson Nix's single. The left-hander walked three straight to start the second inning but permitted only Chris Stewart's sacrifice fly.
Cano led off the third and sent an 0-2 breaking ball a few rows beyond the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center for his eighth home run of the year. Two outs later, Francisco homered to left for his first RBI in 30 at-bats with the Yankees.
Pitching in place of injured Ivan Nova, Phelps cruised through three innings on 34 pitches and had faced the minimum after 10 batters - including a double-play grounder. But the right-hander suddenly came undone with one out in the fourth.
Altuve singled and Jason Castro grounded a double off the glove of a diving Nix at third base. Pena put the Astros on the board with an RBI single up the middle that could have been handled by Nunez at the edge of the outfield grass.
Phelps plunked two consecutive batters with pitches, forcing in a run, and Barnes beat out a potential double-play grounder to drive in another. Dominguez's RBI single tied it 4-all before Phelps struck out Gonzalez, finally ending a 30-pitch inning.
''I threw all right. I'm really happy we won that game,'' Phelps said. ''Fourth inning just killed all the momentum we'd built up. Just got to do better than that.''
Phelps was pulled after 5 2-3 innings. He allowed eight hits and struck out five, throwing 58 of 87 pitches for strikes.
''I know he expected more of himself but I was pretty pleased,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Logan retired Gonzalez on a grounder with a runner at second to end the sixth.
Bedard, who entered with a 7.98 ERA, gave up six hits and walked four over four innings in his 13th career start against New York but first at the new Yankee Stadium.
NOTES: Houston will recall RHP Jordan Lyles from Triple-A Oklahoma City to start Thursday night against AL champion Detroit. A corresponding roster move will be made before the opener of a 10-game homestand, the Astros' longest of the season. ... Seeking depth for their injury-depleted infield, the Yankees acquired 3B-2B Chris Nelson from Colorado for a player to be named or cash.