NEW YORK -- Not even the highest-scoring team in the Major Leagues could do much to slow down Astros ace Justin Verlander.
Despite not having his best stuff, Verlander held the Yankees to one run -- a seventh-inning homer by Greg Bird -- and five hits in 6 2/3 innings to win his third consecutive start in a 5-1 victory at Yankee Stadium. The Astros have won 14 of their last 19 games.
"It's an energetic place to pitch, and he had to make pitches against a really good lineup," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "It was nice to spot him a lead and have him settle in. He pitched without his good slider or good chase breaking ball. They did a good job of laying off pitches, but he still came up with some really good pitches and a really good outing."
Verlander was booed loudly when he exited in the seventh. This was, after all, his second start this month in which he shut down the Yankees. On May 1 in Houston, Verlander tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and fanning 14 against these Yanks.
How did he respond? He tipped his cap.
"I kind of expected it," Verlander said. "I didn't get as many boos when they announced my name in pregame as I thought, but coming off the field I definitely got a fair amount of boos. I've come to find here in Yankee Stadium it's terms of endearment, so thank you." More >
Astros rookie J.D. Davis slugged a towering three-run homer in the second inning off Yankees starter Domingo German, scoring Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis for a 3-0 lead. It was Davis' first home run of the season. Jose Altuve homered in the eighth to put the Astros ahead, 5-1.
"First time here at Yankee Stadium, first at-bat here at Yankee Stadium, it was pretty cool to experience that," Davis said. "That put us on the board right away. I knew this series, this rivalry was big for the guys. To have my name called and come through for the boys is big time for me."
Verlander (7-2) had allowed just three singles through six scoreless innings before Bird led off the seventh with his first home run of the season, snapping Verlander's homerless streak at 41 innings. Verlander was lifted with two outs in the seventh following a Didi Gregorius single after throwing 113 pitches.
"You realize it's going to be tough, but with our guys, you know that if we can continue to grind and create traffic, we're always one swing away," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Verlander said the Yankees did a good job of not chasing his slider.
"You just had to grind," he said. "Every time they don't chase a pitch [on which] you're trying to get them to expand, it's another pitch, another opportunity for them to get something in the zone. Top to bottom, as the game progressed, too, they got better at laying off some of the stuff. The last three innings were pretty tough for me. I know I've had some success against them in the past, but every day is a new day going up against a lineup like this."
The Astros' bullpen, which blew an 8-3 lead in the ninth inning in Sunday's loss in Cleveland, was up to the challenge Monday. Will Harris recorded a strikeout to end the seventh, Chris Devenski pitched around a leadoff single in the eighth and Ken Giles worked a scoreless ninth.
"We obviously have had a very successful bullpen this year," Hinch said. "One day is not going to derail us. We had the matchups we wanted. The guys came in and made pitches and closed out the game."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Verlander picked off Yankees rookie Gleyber Torres at second base to end the second. Torres had a one-out single in the inning, and he went to second when Aaron Hicks was hit on the foot by a pitch. After Gregorius flied out, Verlander caught Torres straying off the base and whirled a throw to Altuve, who tagged Torres for the out.
"It's huge," Verlander said. "To be able to steal outs against a lineup like this, especially with guys on base in big spots, those are game-changers. Those are difference-makers throughout the course of the ballgame. That was a big turning moment in the game for me."
Verlander has struck out 41 of the 108 batters he's faced the first time through the lineup this season.
HE SAID IT
"It's not the best stuff I've ever had in my career, but it's the best pitching for an extended period that I've ever had in my career." -- Verlander
Right-hander Charlie Morton (7-0, 2.04 ERA) tries for his 11th consecutive victory when the Astros face the Yankees at 6:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in the MLB Network Showcase Game. Morton is 10-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 13 regular-season starts since Sept. 15. Carsten Sabathia (2-1, 3.55 ERA) will start for the Yankees.