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Bullpen gives away JV's 14-K gem

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The Yankees weren't able to touch Astros closer Ken Giles on Monday, then endured eight dominating innings from Justin Verlander on Tuesday night. Another shot at Giles proved to be much more rewarding.

Giles, who hadn't allowed a baserunner in seven consecutive games, gave up a 423-foot three-run homer to center off the bat of Gary Sanchez that broke a scoreless deadlock in the ninth inning and sent the Yankees to a 4-0 win at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- The Yankees weren't able to touch Astros closer Ken Giles on Monday, then endured eight dominating innings from Justin Verlander on Tuesday night. Another shot at Giles proved to be much more rewarding.

Giles, who hadn't allowed a baserunner in seven consecutive games, gave up a 423-foot three-run homer to center off the bat of Gary Sanchez that broke a scoreless deadlock in the ninth inning and sent the Yankees to a 4-0 win at Minute Maid Park.

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"I tried to be aggressive in the zone and power him down with some sliders," Giles said. "I made a horrible pitch, and he deserved to hit it over the fence. That's how it goes."

After Giles struck out the side in the ninth inning on Monday, four of the five batters he faced on Tuesday reached base and scored. A frustrated Giles was seen punching himself in the face as he walked off the mound before he slammed a bat in the dugout.

"I don't think he executed the pitches quite as well, and obviously they put really good swings on a lot of pitches," manager AJ Hinch said. "This game was sort of waiting for somebody to make a big swing in a critical spot, and it felt like they got all the good ones. Kenny was a little more erratic with his pitches than he was [on Monday] night."

Video: NYY@HOU: Hinch on Verlander, Giles after 4-0 loss

Verlander continued the Astros' string of dominating starting pitching performances by striking out 14 batters -- tying a career high -- without issuing a walk in eight scoreless innings. He allowed three singles and hit one batter and retired the final 16 batters he faced.

The Astros have had 10 starting pitchers reach double-digit strikeouts this season, which is one more than they had in their entire 2017 season and ties a Major League record through 31 games. It's also twice as much as any other team in the big leagues has had this year.

"It started off with a really good fastball-slider and really good control, and then as the game went along, my curveball got sharper and sharper and I was able to go to that later in the game," Verlander said. "Overall, pretty happy with where I'm at. I think I talked about it after my last start -- just trying to keep consistency. I feel like I'm where I need to be mechanics-wise and physically, so just trying to stay the course."

Hinch chose to pull Verlander after 105 pitches and before he went through the Yankees' order for a fourth time. Verlander said Hinch asked him in the dugout if he wanted to go back out for the ninth, and he briefly considered saying yes.

"Looking at the way the game had gone, after that last strikeout of [Brett] Gardner, I was walking off the mound thinking that might be it," Verlander said. "I wasn't sure where I was at, pitch-count-wise. I knew I felt like I had thrown a lot and exerted myself."

Video: NYY@HOU: Verlander matches career high with 14th K

Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery left the game after one inning with tightness in his left elbow, and five Yankees relievers shut down the Astros, beginning with four scoreless innings from Domingo German. The Astros went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

"Our at-bats were less than our best tonight," Hinch said. "We didn't have our best night offensively. Whether that was against Montgomery or whether that was against a bullpen we haven't seen a ton is irrelevant."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Aaron Judge singled and Didi Gregorius doubled off Giles to start the ninth inning and put runners at second and third with no outs. Hinch then chose to pitch to Sanchez instead of walking him to load the bases with one out and set up a double play for Aaron Hicks. Hicks would follow Sanchez's homer with a double and later score on a wild pitch by Will Harris.

Video: NYY@HOU: Sanchez crushes go-ahead 3-run homer in 9th

"That's not a great option, to walk [Sanchez]," Hinch said. "You bring up so many different kinds of run-scoring opportunities for them when that happens -- hit by pitch, an error, wild pitch, sac fly. You can score without getting a hit with the bases loaded and one out. That's not a great scenario. You're trying to prevent one run. A three-run homer is a kick in the [behind], but in reality you're trying to not have them score one run."

SOUND SMART
Verlander is the fourth pitcher in Major League history to strike out 14 Yankees without issuing a walk, following Pedro Martinez (1999), Curt Schilling (1997) and Urban Shocker (1920).

HE SAID IT
"When it ends like that, it feels like a terrible decision." -- Hinch, on taking Verlander out after eight innings

UP NEXT
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00 ERA) will start Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Keuchel is 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA in six regular-season starts against the Yankees. Right-hander Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61 ERA) will start for New York.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

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