NEW YORK -- Dallas Keuchel continued his mastery of the Yankees as he returned to the scene of one of his most memorable performances, and Jake Marisnick threw out the potential tying run in the ninth inning, sealing the Astros' 3-2 victory on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
Gary Sanchez made a bid to tie the game with a two-out RBI single off Houston closer Ken Giles, but Marisnick came up firing with a strong throw to home plate, where catcher Brian McCann slapped a tag on Jacoby Ellsbury for the final out.
• 'Perfect throw' ends game
"That's what you're in there for, to kind of make a play like that," said Marisnick, a defensive replacement. "It was fun."
The Astros (24-11) extended their franchise-best start to a season and seized control of the best record in the Majors. The Yankees (21-11) dropped their second straight after winning six in a row.
Keuchel ended the Yankees' season two years ago with a strong performance on short rest in the American League Wild Card Game, New York's most recent playoff appearance before parting ways with veterans such as Carlos Beltran and McCann.
A more youthful order didn't enjoy much more success against the ace left-hander, as Keuchel limited the Bombers to one unearned run on five hits while striking out nine in six innings. Including the AL Wild Card Game, Keuchel improved to 5-2 with a 1.24 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees.
"I didn't really know how their young guys were going to come out or what their plan of attack was," Keuchel said. "We had multiple options and ways to go. McCann knows most of those guys, and he's really smart when it comes to guys trying to hit me in the box. ... I was fortunate enough to have good command early, and that helped me out. The younger guys hadn't seen much the way my fastball moves, so I had the advantage off the bat."
Carlos Correa hit a two-run home run in the first inning and George Springer added a run-scoring single in the fifth inning off Yankees starter Michael Pineda, who scattered six hits over 6 2/3 innings. Pineda walked one and struck out seven as his five-start undefeated streak was snapped.
"I would say it's a good outing," Pineda said. "I gave up the two runs early, but I kept the team in the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Just dropped in: Correa's two-run homer was preceded by a play in center field where Ellsbury and shortstop Didi Gregorius converged, but they were unable to secure a Josh Reddick flare that dropped for a one-out double. Gregorius attempted to make the play with his back turned to home plate, but it might have been an easier grab for Ellsbury racing in. Reddick's ball had just a 4 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™.
"I go as far as I can until I hear something and one of the outfielders calls me off," Gregorius said. "He didn't call me off, so I tried to make the play. It fell right between us." More >
Loud contact, then silence:Matthew Holliday and Starlin Castro opened the sixth inning with a pair of barreled singles off Keuchel, smoking balls to left field at 113.6 mph and 104.4 mph, respectively. As he did in the fifth, Keuchel quieted the threat, this time by striking out Aaron Judge, Chase Headley and Gregorius in order to escape.
"He sinks it, he cuts it, his curveball, his changeup," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We did a much better job in the fifth and sixth innings, we made him work and got him out of the game. We just never really got the one big hit. We had a couple of chances off him."
"He is really good, and when he gets control of the game and he can control contact and bat speed and hitter comfort, he's as good as there is in the league." -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch, on Keuchel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ellsbury reached on a catcher's-interference error with the bases loaded in the fifth inning, marking the 28th time in his career that he has done so -- one shy of all-time leader Pete Rose (29). Ellsbury set a single-season record by reaching on 12 catcher's interferences in 2016.
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers (2-1, 3.40 ERA), whose father pitched for the Yankees (1989-90), will start for the Astros in Friday's 6:05 p.m. CT game at Yankee Stadium. McCullers had allowed 10 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings in his first two road starts this year before holding the Angels to one unearned run and two hits in seven innings on Saturday in Anaheim.
Yankees: Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA) will make his sixth big league start on Friday as the Yankees host the Astros at 7:05 p.m. ET. The 24-year-old last pitched on Saturday at Wrigley Field, picking up the victory as he limited the defending World Series champions to three runs (two earned) on three hits over 6 2/3 innings.
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