Yanks doing things right against lefties

That vulnerability the Yankees once showed against left-handed pitching appears to have worn away. Their 5-4 victory over the Astros Wednesday night improved the Yanks’ record to 8-3 in games started by left-handed opposing pitchers, including their past five at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have won six of the past eight games against left-handed starters.

Nevertheless, they continue to seek ways to bolster their lineup against lefties. After the game, the Yankees announced that they had acquired infielder Chris Nelson from the Rockies in a deal for cash considerations and/or a player to be named. Nelson, 27, was batting .242 in 66 at-bats for Colorado but apparently was available because Nolan Arenado was seeing more playing time at third base. Nelson was a .301 hitter with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 2012. He bats right-handed, can play third base and second base, although defense is not his strong suit. Nelson is expected to join the Yankees Friday night when they open a three-game series against Oakland.

The Yankees cleared space on the 40-man roster for Nelson by assigning catcher Francisco Cervelli (broken right hand) to the 60-day disabled list. They will have to make a move for the 25-man roster when Nelson is activated, most likely returning infielder Corban Joseph to Triple A Scranton.

With all their injuries, the Yankees have had to use left-handed batters against left-handed pitching, and it has worked out. Travis Hafner walked and scored in the second inning, and Robinson Cano belted his eighth home run in the third.

Lyle Overbay doubled, walked twice and made an alert base-running maneuver that led to the deciding run. In the sixth inning with the score 4-4, Overbay was on first base and Eduardo Nunez on third with one out when Ichiro Suzuki, another lefty swinger who had two hits, hit a grounder between first and second. Overbay stopped in the baseline and forced second baseman Jose Altuve to throw to first base while Nunez sprinted home before the Astros could complete the double play by throwing out Overbay in a rundown.

“It takes a heads-up play like that to prevent the double play from happening,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That is what veterans do. They don’t get frazzled by situations.”

Neither did the Yankees’ bullpen. David Phelps was okay in his start (four runs, eight hits, one walk, five strikeouts, two hit batters in 5 2/3 innings), but Boone Logan (2-1), David Robertson and Mariano Rivera (11-for-11 in saves) combined for 3 1/3 spotless, two-hit innings with four strikeouts.

It got a big scary for Mo in the ninth when rookie outfielder Brandon Barnes led off with a line single to right. Matt Dominguez hit the ball hard, too, but Cano made a back-handed stab and got an unassisted double play by tagging Barnes, who was running on the play. Rivera reared back and fired three strikes past Marwin Gonzalez to end a stretch of 16 consecutive dates of games in which the Yankees went 11-5 and won four of the five series.

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