Texas-born duo helps Yankees edge Astros
HOUSTON -- Chris Young and Nathan Eovaldi called this area home during their formative years, and the duo returned to the Lone Star State in style, leading the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
Young slugged a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning off right-hander Will Harris, providing the necessary support as Eovaldi logged his seventh victory in front of a crowd that included about 100 friends and family members, plus Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the only other product of Alvin (Texas) High School to make it to the big leagues.
"It's nice at home," Young said. "Me and Evo together, we had a whole section [of seats] combined. It's good to do it in your hometown; you grew up coming to baseball games, and now you're one of the players on the field. It's a little special for me."
The late lead change spoiled a strong outing from Houston rookie right-hander Vincent Velasquez, who blanked New York over the first six frames before settling for two runs over 6 1/3 innings. Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis collected the only run-scoring hits off Eovaldi, who scattered five hits over six innings. Dellin Betances entered in the eighth and struck out Gattis, then recorded the final three outs in the ninth for his fifth save.
"That's a well-fought game on both sides," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "They had the big hit when they needed it and that's usually the separation between two teams in a one-run game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Happy homecoming: Young was born in Houston and graduated from nearby Bellaire High School, and so he has always enjoyed hitting at Minute Maid Park. Young is now batting .409 (43-for-105) in 25 career games at the facility, with nine homers and 33 RBIs. He added to those eye-popping numbers in the seventh inning by unloading for his ninth homer of the season, providing the Yanks with their first lead of the series.
"I'm sure there's something to it," Young said. "It definitely doesn't hurt to have some extra support behind your back, and a little extra fire up under you when you step up to the plate. You always have it in you, but I think anyone would agree that when you have 50 people behind you when you step up to the plate, it definitely makes a difference."
Velasquez valiant: Though he left with a no-decision, Velasquez spun the best start of his young career, advancing past the fifth inning for the first time and holding the potent Yankees lineup in check until back-to-back singles chased him in the seventh. He kept his pitch count down, needing just 89 to get through 6 1/3 innings. More >
"That was a drastic change from all my other outings," Velasquez said. "A little more consistent with my fastball working inside/outside, changeup was working toward the end. [Catcher Hank] Conger was helping me a lot with little gestures and signs he gives me and that just builds confidence."
Express Eovaldi: You could excuse Eovaldi if he felt some added nerves in this outing, as he made his first career start in his home state, about 30 miles from Alvin. That might have been especially true pitching in front of Ryan, who celebrated his 48th wedding anniversary with seats in the first row behind home plate. Eovaldi put on a good show, walking two and striking out six in a 100-pitch effort. More >
"It was big. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight," Eovaldi said. "It was just a big game. A lot of emotions. [I was] just trying not to let them get the best of me, and go out there and locate my pitches."
Harris hammered: Harris, who entered the game with a 0.78 ERA, surrendered Young's homer, a walk and a single before getting the hook. Coming into the appearance, Harris had retired 51 of the last 63 batters he faced and was Hinch's go-to man when starters left in a jam. The home run he gave up was his first since June 10, and the fourth he's allowed this season.
"My fastball cuts a little bit down and away," Harris said. "He broke his bat [on that same pitch earlier in the at-bat] and I was looking to repeat that pitch again. I didn't do that and he was all over it."
"That's the best I've ever seen him. I thought he did everything he could to get through … he pitched just above the barrel and got a lot of fly balls. Pounded the zone, got some early outs. Just a really, really good start to build on for him. That's his best outing, his best stuff." -- Hinch, on Velasquez's start
"Even though we're playing against them, being a Houstonian, it's good for me to see the Astros doing well. I grew up as a fan of the Astros. This series, they've played us great. They've pitched us well, they ran the bases well, they put the bat on the ball when they needed to." -- Young
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.17 ERA) gets the ball for his ninth start of the season on Saturday as the Yankees play the third game of this four-game series at 4:10 p.m. ET. Tanaka is coming off a rough outing in a loss to the Tigers in which he allowed seven runs (five earned) and 10 hits in five innings. This will be his first career start against the Astros.
Astros: Coming off an uncharacteristic outing during which he issued a career-high four walks in 5 2/3 innings during a no-decision against the Angels, Brett Oberholtzer (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will face the Yankees for the third time in his career. He's 0-2 lifetime against the Yanks with a 4.96 ERA.
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