HOUSTON -- The Yankees hit Minute Maid Park on Monday night leading the league in runs, having scored more than seven per game during their nine-game winning streak. They were no match for the dynamic Charlie Morton.Morton held the Bombers to one run on two hits and two walks and
HOUSTON -- The Yankees hit Minute Maid Park on Monday night leading the league in runs, having scored more than seven per game during their nine-game winning streak. They were no match for the dynamic Charlie Morton.
Morton held the Bombers to one run on two hits and two walks and struck out 10 in 7 2/3 terrific innings, and closer Ken Giles struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to slam the door on the Astros' 2-1 win in a rematch of last year's American League Championship Series.
"They're a great team," Morton said. "It's rewarding, even more so to do well against a team like that."
The Astros finished April at 20-10, tying the club's best start through 30 games. Houston's starting pitchers have a Major League-best 2.44 ERA with 226 strikeouts in 188 innings.
"Our starting pitching has been exceptional," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "Obviously, Charlie Morton started the night incredibly well for us, and our starters have done that for us, for the most part, during the season. You've got to make pitches, you've to play good defense behind him. Our guys are missing bats at a great rate."
Morton (4-0) had electric stuff, spotting his fastball and baffling the Yankees with his darting curveball that produced five of his 14 swinging strikes. He had allowed only one hit entering the eighth and was pulled after Gleyber Torres doubled with two outs.
"His curveball was the pitch tonight," Hinch said. "It's the best it's been, I think, all year. That's saying a lot, given he was arguably one of the best pitchers in the American League. Everything he does starts with his breaking ball, and when he has that going -- we know he has 96-99 [mph] in his tank -- it's a tough combination when he's landing his breaking ball for a strike."
Brad Peacock followed Morton in the eighth and walked pinch-hitter Aaron Judge to put the tying run on base. Reliever Chris Devenski gave up an RBI single to Brett Gardner before striking out Didi Gregorius (0-for-4, three strikeouts) swinging to end the inning.
"Devo came in and got the hottest hitter in the league out," Hinch said.
George Springer (2-for-3) singled and scored on Carlos Correa's groundout in the first inning, and Yuli Gurriel's RBI double in the fourth gave Morton a 2-0 cushion against Yankees starter Sonny Gray (1-2), who allowed two runs on four hits with four strikeouts in six innings.
In the ninth, Giles struck out Giancarlo Stanton on three pitches, got Gary Sanchez looking on a 99.9-mph fastball and struck out Aaron Hicks swinging for his third save.
"He was ready for that moment," Hinch said. "That's as big of a pocket as you're going to get. To come in and have some challenge fastballs, be able to land his breaking balls -- Sanchez is not an easy matchup for anybody -- and finish with three punchouts, how do you top that? I was very proud of him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Devenski up to challenge: Gregorius, who was named AL Player of the Week on Monday and is the favorite to be named AL Player of the Month, stepped to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning, the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first. Devenski started him out with a called strike on a changeup, got him to chase a high fastball before he buried a change in the dirt for a swinging strikeout.
"[Catcher Brian McCann] came out there and we talked and got on the same page and went over what was going to be good there," Devenski said. "We had a couple of options to go to. Definitely wanted to start him off with something soft and work the count from there. After I got ahead, I feel like that fastball up was huge to change some eye levels, and I finished down under the zone."
BRINGING THE HEAT
Morton (98.9 mph) and Giles (99.9 mph) both threw their hardest pitches of the season Monday.
HE SAID IT
"Overall, everybody was all amped up about this series. It's a great team we were facing, and it brings back a lot of memories. We want to prove a point. We want to make a statement that we're the team to beat and you've got to come past us first." -- Giles
Right-hander Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA), who has the lowest ERA of his career through six starts, will face the Yankees at Minute Maid Park Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT in the MLB Network Showcase Game. New York will counter with lefty Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA). Verlander is 9-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 11 regular-season starts with Houston.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.