Ace Justin Verlander pitched the Houston Astros to a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night (box score). For New York, the loss ends their 15-game home win streak, which had been the third-longest in franchise history and longest since they won a franchise-record 18 home games in a row in 1942. The Astros, after blowing a ninth-inning lead on Thursday night, now even the four-game series at a win apiece. The loss was just the Yankees' fourth in their last 23 games.
In his first appearance against the Yankees since Game 5 of the 2019 American League Championship Series, Verlander, armed with his best fastball velocity of the season, twirled a gem:
Verlander's lone blemish came on Giancarlo Stanton's opposite-field solo home run in sixth. The performance by Verlander was especially welcome coming off his shortest start of the season. In his last outing, Verlander lasted just 3 2/3 innings against the White Sox and allowed seven runs on nine hits. Friday's effort lowered his ERA for the season to 2.22 and gave him career win No. 235.
For a time, Yankees starter Luis Severino was Verlander's equal, as he didn't allow a base-runner until the fourth inning. That fourth inning might have yielded the first Houston run of the night if not for a miracle snare in left by Aaron Hicks, who played the hero for the Yankees in the series opener on Thursday. Here's a look:
In the sixth, though, the Astros broke through against Severino thanks to a three-run home run from Kyle Tucker:
That was Tucker's 14th home run of the season, and he's now slashing .262/.354/.498 in this, his age-25 campaign. That's in addition to Tucker's excellent defense and base-running.
The Yankees threatened in the eighth after Verlander exited, as the potential tying run reached base with one out. However, Houston reliever Phil Maton was able to strike out Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson, each on a slider outside the zone, to snuff out the threat. The Yankees put the potential tying run on base with two away, but Rafael Montero was able to retire DJ LeMahieu on a tough-hop grounder to Alex Bregman at third and pick up his fifth save of the season.
Earlier in the game, Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson raised a few Houston hackles when he admired what turned out to be an automatic double and flicked his bat into catcher Jason Castro:
That led to a brief exchange with the Houston dugout after Donaldson reached third base later that same inning:
The loss drops the Yankees to 52-19. However, they still have a large lead in the American League West, and they're on pace for an MLB-record 119 wins this season. As for the Astros, they improve to 44-26 -- a 102-win clip -- and maintain a division lead that's almost as big as that of the Yankees.