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NYY@HOU: Gardner crosses the plate on double play

HOUSTON -- The Yankees remodeled their batting order at a price tag of nearly $300 million, a spending spree deemed necessary after too many punchless evenings last season. Through the first 18 innings of this season, they're still waiting for the returns on that investment.

New York was shut down for five innings by right-hander Jarred Cosart, then managed little against four relievers in a 3-1 loss to the Astros on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. The Yanks finished 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, stranding eight men on base.

"We're going to be fine," said outfielder Carlos Beltran, who had one of the club's seven hits. "We haven't been able to put anything together, but offensively, I think, we have what it takes to play better and win ballgames. So we don't worry about it."

After a pregame ceremony that honored retiring captain Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda permitted just three hits over six innings of two-run ball. In a recurring theme that has seemed to trail Kuroda's big league career, he pitched well but lacked run support.

"With the lineup like we have, if you keep the game to two runs, I know we'll have a chance," Kuroda said through an interpreter.

Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff homer and scorched a third-inning triple to deep center for Houston, scoring on a Mark Teixeira error. That paced the offense against Kuroda, who walked one and struck out five.

Coming off an 111-loss season, the Astros clinched their first series victory against the Yankees, improving to 4-13 all-time against New York. This marks Houston's first 2-0 start since 2003.

"No one expected us to come in here and win a series against the Yankees, and no one expected much from us period, so it's just staying motivated," Cosart said. "We know what we can do as a team, and if we can keep playing together like this and keep finding ways to win games, who knows what could happen?"

For Girardi the outcome bore too close a resemblance to some of those from last year's 85-win campaign, but the lineup did have its chances.

"Our lineup, obviously, it's a lot different with switch-hitters," Girardi said. "We're not stacking … lefties all together. There's going to be times where you don't score runs. That's part of the game."

Brian Roberts was a bright spot, with three singles, and Brian McCann also punched a pair of hits, though the Yankees came up short in a few key run-scoring opportunities.

In the sixth inning, they parked runners at the corners with one out, but right-hander Jerome Williams struck out Teixeira and got Alfonso Soriano to ground out to third base. Teixeira and Soriano combined to finish 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.

"I'm being too aggressive," Soriano said. "I've got to calm down a little bit more and see better pitches."

Soriano expressed confidence that the Yankees will be able to get on track and start getting the big hits that they need.

"It's only two games. It's nothing," he said. "160 games left, so we've got to keep working hard to get better."

The Yankees knocked on the door again in the seventh against left-hander Kevin Chapman. With two on and one out, pinch-hitter Yangervis Solarte bounced into a run-scoring double play, earning congratulations in the dugout after his first Major League at-bat.

Jacoby Ellsbury walked and stole second base to keep the threat alive, but Chapman fanned Jeter for the third out.

Matt Dominguez gave the Astros a little breathing room in the seventh, slugging a solo home run to right field off reliever David Phelps, and New York wasted Beltran's leadoff double in the eighth before Josh Fields pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

"That's part of when a team's cold," Beltran said. "Sometimes you put two guys in scoring position, and you have difficulties getting those guys in. It's just the second game of the season. I know it's important to win, that every win counts, but at the same time, we have [seen] good pitching from them."

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