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'Pen falters after Astros end 28-inning drought

Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- It doesn't take long for the Astros' offense to get on track, no matter how dormant it's been. Houston finally showed some life against New York pitching on Thursday at Minute Maid Park, scoring four runs in the seventh to take a lead and breaking a scoreless streak of 28 innings dating to Monday. But the Houston bullpen couldn't hold the lead in a 6-5 loss to the Yankees.

Handed a 5-3 advantage, Will Harris was unable to retire any of the three batters he faced in the ninth as the Yankees stormed back with three runs to take three out of four games in the series, including the last three. Houston completed its 10-game homestand at 4-6 and the Yankees finished their seven-game road trip at 6-1 while winning for the 12th time in 13 games.

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HOUSTON -- It doesn't take long for the Astros' offense to get on track, no matter how dormant it's been. Houston finally showed some life against New York pitching on Thursday at Minute Maid Park, scoring four runs in the seventh to take a lead and breaking a scoreless streak of 28 innings dating to Monday. But the Houston bullpen couldn't hold the lead in a 6-5 loss to the Yankees.

Handed a 5-3 advantage, Will Harris was unable to retire any of the three batters he faced in the ninth as the Yankees stormed back with three runs to take three out of four games in the series, including the last three. Houston completed its 10-game homestand at 4-6 and the Yankees finished their seven-game road trip at 6-1 while winning for the 12th time in 13 games.

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Video: NYY@HOU: McCullers Jr. rings up Stanton in the 1st

"We're trying to win as many games as we can, and the last couple of days have been overall tough," said starter Lance McCullers Jr., who was in line for his fourth consecutive win before the bullpen faltered. "But the good thing is that we're pretty good at turning the page and the guys are going to bounce back."

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka was sailing along with a 3-0 lead until the Astros scored four runs in the last of the seventh to take the lead. Carlos Correa, who made two sparkling plays from shortstop in the fourth, homered for the fifth time this season leading off the eighth off Chad Green to give Houston a 5-3 lead.

Video: Must C Correa: Correa makes incredible jump throw

"We competed but we didn't come out with the win," said Correa, whose 446-foot home run was the longest hit at Minute Maid Park this season and marked his seventh career regular-season homer against the Yankees in 23 games. "It was a rough series for the team."

After being shut out the previous two games by the Yankees and coming into Thursday's game having scored just two runs off New York pitching, the Astros outhit the Yankees, 9-8. But the game ended when Aroldis Chapman struck out Jose Altuve, the reigning American League MVP, with runners on first and second.

Video: NYY@HOU: Hinch on giving up late lead to Yankees

"A winnable game," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "Frustrating because we're behind for so long in this entire series, we could have split. A split's not necessarily something to celebrate, but we should have won today."

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs to begin the seventh. Alex Bregman scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 3 and the Astros went ahead on a George Springer comebacker that plated Marwin Gonzalez, who drove in the first run on an infield single.

Video: NYY@HOU: Springer's groundout gives Astros a 4-3 lead

The Yankees got to McCullers early, scoring twice in the second and adding a run in the third. In going seven innings in consecutive starts for only the second time in his career, the right-hander settled down and gave up three runs and five hits with five strikeouts and three walks.

Video: NYY@HOU: Gonzalez's infield single plates Gurriel

In his previous outing against the A's, McCullers retired his first 15 batters. Through 15 batters on Thursday, McCullers had given up three runs, five hits, two walks and hit a batter in 2 2/3 innings.

McCullers was facing the Yankees for the first time since recording a four-inning save in Game 7 of the 2017 AL Championship Series, in which his final 24 pitches were curveballs.

Chris Devenski came on in relief of McCullers to start the eighth and struck out the heart of the Yankees' order -- Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez -- before giving way to Harris and Brad Peacock. It's the 12th consecutive scoreless appearance for Devenski, the longest streak of his career.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Silver lining: The Astros ended their scoring drought with the four-run seventh as Bregman scored on a passed ball by Sanchez to tie the game. Bregman reached base that inning after being hit by a pitch from Tanaka, the final batter he faced. Gonzalez and Brian McCann each notched run-scoring hits in the frame to help the Astros rediscover their offense.

"Offense has been tough for us to come by lately, which is rare," Hinch said. "To have a big inning where we get a few things are going our way and break through. We capitalize on a misplay behind the plate and get the run and some momentum."

Video: NYY@HOU: Bregman scores the tying run on passed ball

SOUND SMART
Before erupting for four runs in the seventh off Tanaka and Green, the Astros hadn't gone 28 innings without a run since April 26-30, 1992.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
On a ball hit deep into the hole in the fourth, Correa displayed his range, going to his right and well onto the outfield grass. After securing the ball, Correa pivoted and made a strong throw to nab Gleyber Torres. According to Statcast™, Correa covered 57.62 feet to get to the ball before firing a 149-foot throw for the out.

"It's one of the best plays I've ever seen made in person," McCullers said. "Just the way he made the play, the way he's been playing all year. He's special over there." More >

HE SAID IT
"A leadoff walk is one thing I would like to have back. After that, a couple of singles. I'm used to being a strike thrower and I wasn't commanding as well as a normal day for me. It's a tough game, they have a good lineup."
-- Harris, on walking Neil Walker to lead off the ninth before allowing consecutive hits

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Yankees challenged in the seventh inning after Bregman claimed to have been hit by a Tanaka sinker that came up and in to the right-handed batter. The replay was reviewed for two minutes and 43 seconds, at which time the call was ruled to stand.

Video: NYY@HOU: Bregman is hit by a pitch, call stands

UP NEXT
Record-setter Gerrit Cole gets the start for the Astros, who try to continue their success away from Minute Maid Park when they open a three-game series at Arizona on Friday at 8:40 p.m. CT. In their previous road series, the Astros outscored the White Sox, 27-2, in a three-game sweep. With four double-digit strikeout games, Cole's 61 strikeouts in his first six starts set an American League record for a single March/April, as well as a franchise record of strikeouts for the month of April. Kris Medlen starts for the D-backs.

Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

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