Yankees finding Astros are no pushovers

So much for the Yankees taking advantage of a pair of perceived pushover teams in the current homestand. For the second night in a row, the Yanks were not as good as the Astros. Shaky relief pitching combined with another punchless showing by the offense led to another disappointing night at Yankee Stadium.

Manager Joe Girardi talks daily about his team’s need to win series. Well, here is another lost series as Houston has already taken two of the three games in a set that concludes Thursday afternoon. The Astros have proved tough customers this year for the Yankees, who have lost four of five games against Houston. The White Sox come here over the weekend, and there is no longer any reason for the Yankees to feel cocky against any opponent. They have played only .500 ball (2-2) against Chicago this season.

Time is growing short for the Yankees, who have 38 games left in the season to put something together that will make them more serious contenders for a playoff berth than they have shown thus far. The 5-2 loss Wednesday night dropped them into third place in the American League East 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles and five games out of a wild-card spot.

Michael Pineda in his second start since coming off the disabled list pitched well again and took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning that became a messy frame for the Yankees. Pineda departed after walking the leadoff batter, but relievers David Huff and Esmil Rogers were unable to keep the Astros from taking control of the game.

Huff struck out Jon Singleton and then gave up a single to Marwin Gonzalez. Rogers, who has been pitching effectively since being with the Yankees, gave up four straight singles that so irritated the Stadium crowd that the chorus of boos was the loudest aimed at a Yankees player this season.

The Yankees were not totally anemic offensively. They did have 10 hits and showed aggression on the bases with four steals. Yet they stranded 10 runners and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Yanks’ runs were virtue of a home run by Stephen Drew in the fourth inning and a squeeze bunt by Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth. Drew, who was a late addition to the lineup when Carlos Beltran was scratched because of right elbow soreness, got his fifth homer of the season and his first with the Yankees. Ellsbury batted with two runners on base in both the seventh and the ninth innings with two out and could not break through.

It has become a familiar refrain. The Yankees by averaging 3.9 runs per game this season have given their pitchers too slim a margin for error even against teams that are considered inferior. Yet against the Astros this year it is the Yankees who have been inferior.

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