HOUSTON -- So much for the Yankees being weary following an early-morning arrival in Houston on Friday.Instead, the Yankees feasted on the Astros' fatigued bullpen, tagging relievers Michael Feliz and Reymin Guduan for three runs apiece before Brett Gardner (3-for-5, career-high-tying six RBIs) delivered the kill shot with a seventh-inning
HOUSTON -- So much for the Yankees being weary following an early-morning arrival in Houston on Friday.
Instead, the Yankees feasted on the Astros' fatigued bullpen, tagging relievers Michael Feliz and Reymin Guduan for three runs apiece before Brett Gardner (3-for-5, career-high-tying six RBIs) delivered the kill shot with a seventh-inning grand slam off James Hoyt that sent the Bombers to a 13-4 win in the series opener at Minute Maid Park.
"It's our only option, really," Gardner said. "We come here into Houston against arguably the best team in baseball, best team in the American League for sure, and they've been playing really good. Under tough circumstances with everything [Thursday] night and getting in early [Friday] morning, it was a big win for us."
Things got so out of hand for the Astros that outfielder Norichika Aoki pitched the ninth, allowing three runs, though he did get Aaron Judge to fly out to end the inning.
• Bullpen overworked, Astros turn to OF Aoki
The Astros were leading, 3-1, entering the sixth before the Yankees chased starter Lance McCullers, who left with runners at first and second with one out. The inning quickly unraveled for the Astros, who watched the Yankees bat around and score five times -- three charged to Feliz (4-2) -- to take a 6-3 lead.
"I felt OK," said McCullers, who threw 97 pitches in his second start back from the disabled list. "Early I felt pretty good with fastball command, and out of the stretch I didn't feel as good with it. Overall, I was fighting a lot of different things out there. I gave everything I had. You walk through the doors at the start of the day, all we ask is the best effort from our guys. The results are secondary."
The first three Yankees reached in the seventh against Guduan, who was pulled in favor of Hoyt. He struck out Chris Carter before Gardner -- who finished a triple shy of the cycle -- shot a slam to right field that scored Austin Romine, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade to put the game out of reach.
"It's outstanding. We all got in about 6 in the morning," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They came out with a lot of energy, played hard and made McCullers work. He's got outstanding stuff, and we were able to get some big two-out hits in that sixth inning to really make a difference."
Yankees starter Michael Pineda (8-4) held the Astros to three runs (two earned) and three hits in six innings.
"The Astros' lineup is a really good lineup," Pineda said. "Later in the game, I see those hitters are always looking for my slider, so I said, 'OK, I'll go back to my changeup.' My changeup was really good and I used it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gardner slams door: The Astros' quick-strike offense has had a knack very doing damage late in games, but Gardner's third career slam, in the seventh inning, pushed the lead to 10-3 and all but squelched any hopes of a Houston comeback. It was the third slam this season for the Yanks, and first since Judge against the A's on May 28.
"It was just a patient at-bat and I was able to see some pitches; saw a couple of fastballs, saw several breaking balls," Gardner said. "He threw me a good pitch to hit and I didn't miss it." More >
Mighty might: Torreyes proved to be a tough out for the Astros. After singling in the second and doubling in the fourth, the former Astros farmhand greeted Feliz with an RBI single in the sixth to get the ball rolling against Houston's bullpen. Five of the first six batters Feliz faced reached base via four singles and a walk, beginning with the single by Torreyes, (3-for-3 with two walks).
"Torreyes had the bad-hop base hit, Carter hits the ball at [shortstop Carlos Correa] and it's knuckling and gets away from him," Astros manager A.J. HInch said. "It's a few inches away from being a catchable ball. The inning could have easily gone the other way with a little bit of luck, but they put together some good at-bats and singled him to death."
"I knew he was big, but he looked even bigger when I was on the mound. It felt like he was nine feet, 10 feet tall." -- Aoki, on facing Judge
Yankees: Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.53 ERA) will try to win his fifth straight decision Saturday as he draws the start against the Astros at 8:15 p.m. ET. Montgomery defeated the White Sox on Monday by tying career highs in innings (seven) and strikeouts (eight) in a scoreless outing.
Astros: Rookie righty Francis Martes (2-0. 5.51 ERA), the Astros' top prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, starts Saturday's 6:15 p.m. CT game against the Yankees at Minute Maid Park. This will be his fifth career appearance and fourth start, all of which have come this year. He's the youngest pitcher in the American League at 21 years old.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.