Results tagged ‘ Chris Young ’

Yanks homers give Chapman a chance to close

Yankees fans got their first look at Aroldis Chapman in pinstripes Monday night. The lefthander was everything as advertised with gun readings in triple figures, but there was some rust as well befitting a pitcher who sat out a 30-day suspension at the start of the season for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Of the 17 pitches Chapman threw in the ninth inning, six were 100 miles per hour or faster — four topped out at 101 and the other two were at 100. After quick strikeouts of the first two batters of the inning, pinch hitter Paulo Orlando ripped a double to center field on what at 90 mph was probably a changeup.

That was impressive for Orlando, who was on the bench all night and then was told to go up and try to hit a guy throwing 100 mph regularly. Alcides Escobar followed with a sharply-struck single past Didi Gregorius at shortstop to drive in Orlando before Lorenzo Cain was out on a pepper shot to Chapman.

In the 6-3 victory, the Yankees figured out a way to solve their dilemma of hitting with runners in scoring position — just come up with no one on base let alone in scoring position and hit the ball over the fence.

That approach worked very well against Royals righthander Chris Young, not the former Yankees outfielder but the journeyman pitcher who was one of Kansas City’s World Series heroes last year. The Yanks bashed five solo home runs off Young in 2 2/3 innings.

Brian McCann began the assault with two out in the first inning. After the Royals tied the score in the second on a homer by Alex Gordon, Carlos Beltran led off the bottom of the inning by taking Young deep. Beltran was just getting started it seemed.

Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks started things off in the third with bombs to right field. Two outs later, Beltran connected again for his 38th multi-homer game (all but one are two-homer games). That marked the first three-homer inning for the Yankees since May 25 last year, also against KC and Jeremy Guthrie, by Gardner, McCann and Chase Headley.

That was it for Young, who tied a dubious franchise record for home runs allowed in a single appearance and departed the game with a swollen 6.68 ERA. Such an outing did not bode well for the defending World Series champs because they have had just as hard time as the Yankees scoring runs this year. KC entered play with only one more run scored than the Bombers.

The Royals might have been better off starting Dillon Gee, who gave up only one run on a sacrifice fly by Hicks in 5 1/3 innings.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was hoping Ivan Nova, starting in place of disabled pitcher CC Sabathia, could give the Yankees at least 75 pitches. Nova did even better than that (81 pitches), but his own error probably cost him a shot at a winning decision.

Nova missed the bag taking a throw from Mark Teixeira while covering first base on a grounder by Escobar and lost a precious out. When left-handed Eric Hosmer came to the plate with two down in the fifth, Girardi brought in lefthander Phil Coke to face the Royals first baseman who flied out to the left field warning track. Failing to pitch a full five innings to qualify for a victory, Nova was hung with a no-decision despite a first-rate effort.

The victory went to Kirby Yates (2-0), who pitched scoreless, one-hit ball for 1 2/3 innings. It was also a big night for rookie Ben Gamel, who singled in his first major-league plate appearance in the eighth.

The Yankees finished the game 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, but they enjoyed their new formula for scoring.

Young gets start in Wild Card Game over Ellsbury

All year Yankees manager Joe Girardi has given one of his two left-handed hitting outfielders a night off against a left-handed starting pitcher. For Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, Jacoby Ellsbury was the one who had to grab the pine.

Girardi wanted to make sure Chris Young, who had a strong year against lefthanders, was in the lineup and chose to sit Ellsbury and have Gardner move from left field to center against AL Cy Young Award candidate Dallas Keuchel, who pitched 16 shutout innings against the Yankees this year.

Young batted .327 with 15 doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 153 at-bats against lefties this year. Neither Gardner nor Ellsbury finished the season on a high note. Girardi decided the statistics favored Gardner, who hit .276 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI in 170 at-bats against lefties, over Ellsbury, a .253 hitter with five doubles, three homers and eight RBI in 154 at-bats against southpaws.

Tuesday night marked the first time the Yankees played in the AL Wild Card Game in the four-year history of the event and was their fifth Wild Card berth overall. They reached the postseason through the wild card in 1995, 1997, 2007 and 2010. The Yankees clinched the 52nd playoff appearance in franchise history, most for any major league club. They have appeared in the postseason in 18 of the past 21 seasons. The Yankees are 12-11 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games, most recently winning 2012 ALDS Game 5 against the Orioles, 3-1. The Yanks have won the opening game of four consecutive postseasons (2009-12) and are 6-1 in postseason openers since 2005.

Of the 25 players on their AL Wild Card Game roster, 10 have prior postseason experience: Alex Rodriguez (75 games), Carlos Beltran (51), Ellsbury (38), Gardner (33), Brian McCann (12), Young (12), Andrew Miller (5), Brendan Ryan (3), Justin Wilson (3) and Ivan Nova (2). Of those 10, only Rodriguez, Gardner and Nova have appeared for the Yankees in the postseason. The roster includes eight rookies — Greg Bird, Slade Heathcott, Bryan Mitchell, Rico Noel, John Pazos, Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino. Bird and Refsnyder were in Tuesday night’s starting lineup.

Three Yankees players previously appeared in Wild Card Games — Beltran was 1-for-4 in the 2012 NL Wild Card Game with the Cardinals in a 6-3 victory over the Braves; McCann drew a walk in one plate appearance with Atlanta in that same game; Wilson pitched for the Pirates in their 8-0 loss to the Giants in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game and allowed one hit and one walk with one strikeout in one-third of an inning.

Yankees batters hit a club-record 47 home runs of at least three runs in 2015 (40 three-run homers, seven grand slams), 18 more than the next-highest team (Blue Jays with 29). It was the third-highest total in major-league history history, behind the 53 by the Mariners in 1996 and the 48 by the Cardinals in 2000.

Yankees relief pitchers set a single-season record with 596 combined strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 589 by the Rockies in 2012.

Yankees catchers combined for 28 home runs and 106 runs batted in, the highest HR and RBI totals among any team’s catchers. The Yanks used just two catchers this season, fewest in the majors, the first major-league team to use only two catchers for an entire season since the Pirates in 2012 with Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry). It was the third time in team history that the Yankees used only two catchers in a full season. The other years were 1972 (Thurman Munson and John Ellis) and 1940 (Bill Dickey and Buddy Rosar). Sanchez and Austin Romine were on the roster in September but neither went behind the plate.

Ironically, the Yankees had three catchers on the Wild Card Game roster: McCann, Murphy and Sanchez.

Yanks go down fighting but definitely down

At least the Yankees went down fighting. Trailing by four runs in the top of the ninth inning, they loaded the bases with one out against Mets closer Jeurys Familia and had the sellout crowd of 43,602 at Citi Field pretty nervous. Familia recovered, however, and down the Yankees indeed did go.

The 5-1 loss smarted, and least of all because it came against the Mets. These Subway Series certainly draw the interest of the two New York teams’ fan bases, but as former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to point out at this juncture of the season they are not playing for the same prize, which is the downside of inter-league competition.

What hurt mostly is that the setback corresponded with the Blue Jays winning at home against the Red Sox so that the Yankees fell 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East. Also, the Yanks were defeated with their ace on the mound, which could mean having Masahiro Tanaka make his next start Wednesday night at Toronto might be a waste of time. A lot can happen over the next four days that could convince manager Joe Girardi to give Tanaka extra rest so that he can be at his sharpest for the wild card game.

With 16 games remaining, it is far too early for the Yankees to concede the division title to Toronto and concentrate on making sure they are the home team in the wild card playoff. But the idea has to have crossed Girardi’s mind.

Tanaka started Friday night on regular rest so that he would be available to pitch in the Toronto series that follows the Subway Series. He pitched well, too, although he could not keep two balls in the yard that ruined his outing. Solo home runs by Lucas Duda off a high splitter in the second inning and Daniel Murphy on a wimpy slider in the sixth were the only real mistakes made all night by Tanaka, who has allowed 24 home runs in 149 innings.

The Yankees got a run in the first inning off Mets rookie Steven Matz on a sacrifice fly by Chris Young before the lefthander settled down and held the Yankees at bay through the sixth. That was Matz’s last inning and one that presented Girardi with a big decision.

With the score 1-1, the Yankees had runners on first and third and two out with 8-hole hitter Brendan Ryan due up and Tanaka in the on-deck circle. On the bench lurked Alex Rodriguez, rendered a bench warmer because the designated hitter is outlawed in the National League. That might have been the perfect time to let A-Rod try to break open the game as a pinch hitter, but Girardi did not think so.

The skipper’s thinking was that there was still an open base, even though it was second base, so Rodriguez could have been pitched around, perhaps even purposely walked and then Girardi would have to lift Tanaka for a pinch hitter. He liked the way his pitcher was throwing and did not want to chance that Rodriguez would be wasted in an at-bat in that circumstance. So he let Ryan hit or at least swing, which he did on the first pitch and grounded out to end the threat.

Murphy’s homer off Tanaka came in the bottom of that inning, and the Mets never looked back. Juan Uribe would have the big pinch-hit at-bat in the game for the Mets and drove an opposite-field, two-run home run to right off Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling of late (six earned runs in his past four innings).

Rodriguez did come up in the pinch, but it was when the Yanks were four runs behind in the ninth with a runner on second and one out. He, yep, walked, just as Girardi feared would happen earlier. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury off Familia’s shin filled the bases, but the Mets’ closer in a non-save situation retired Brett Gardner on a fly to left and struck out Chase Headley.

The NL East-leading Mets reduced their major number for clinching their first division title in nine years to eight, but this was a case of one New York team being hurt more by a loss than the other was fortified by a victory.

HOPE Week: Chris Singleton’s message

The Yankees began their seventh annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Monday with the story of Chris Singleton, a baseball player at Charleston Southern University, Chris was a normal student and college athlete when tragedy changed his life.

His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 – a minister at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., and speech pathologist and girls track coach at Goose Creek High School – was among nine parishioners who lost their lives in a premeditated hate crime at the church this past June.

Following a memorial at his former high school the day after the shooting, Chris said about the perpetrator, “We already forgive him for what he has done. There’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

Chris Singleton and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Chris Singleton and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Chris’ positivity has galvanized a community. Despite losing the only parent who took an active role in his life, he continues to radiate wisdom beyond his 19 years. More than a month after the tragedy, he posted on Twitter July 22, “The good outweighs the bad even on your worst days.”

Chris, along with his sister Camryn, 15, brother Caleb, 12, and his college baseball coach and mentor, Stuart Lake, of Charleston Southern University, were surprised Monday morning on the set of NBC’s The Today Show at Rockefeller Center by Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances, outfielder Brett Gardner and designated hitter Alex Rodriguez.

Singleton was later joined at One World Observatory for a private tour and lunch with pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Justin Wilson, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Young, infielder Stephen Drew and former second baseman and coach Willie Randolph before going to Yankee Stadium where he took part in batting practice with the team and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

No relief for Red Sox pen against Yankees

For a while there Tuesday night, it appeared as if Brian McCann might not survive this game. With Dellin Betances bouncing balls in the dirt in the seventh inning, McCann collected black-and-blue marks galore and at one point seemed destined to come out of the game when his right knee buckled.

He shook it all off, however, long enough to provide one of the crushing blows in the Yankees’ 13-3 victory over the Red Sox, a three-run home run off lefthander Craig Breslow that helped turn a close game into a rout during a nine-run seventh that secured the Bombers’ triumph.

Turning back the Red Sox kept the Yankees 5 1/2 games out in front in the American League East as the Blue Jays also won. It also took some of the pressure off rookie Luis Severino, who will make his major-league debut as the Yankees’ starting pitcher Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

Rookie Henry Owens was in that spot for the Red Sox Tuesday night. The lefthander actually pitched well but was hung with a losing decision because the Boston bullpen was so ineffective. Owens began the sixth inning with a 2-1 lead but was removed from game after he gave up a single to Chris Young and a double to Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees then began mugging Red Sox relievers, starting with Robbie Ross.

Mark Teixeira, who has been an extra-base hit machine this year, tied the score with his second RBI single of the game. McCann then quickly put the Yanks back in front with a double. Teixeira went to third on the hit and eventually scored on an infield out.

The Red Sox made it a one-run game again in the top of the seventh on a leadoff home run by Pablo Sandoval off Masahiro Tanaka. Considering that Sandoval has given up switch hitting after going 2-for-41(.049) batting right-handed, it was surprising that Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not start the inning with lefthander Justin Wilson, who entered the game after Tanaka gave up his sixth home run in his past four starts. But it is hard to criticize a manager in a 10-run victory.

A throwing error by Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts opened the floodgates for the Yankees in the seventh, first off righthander Jean Machi and then off the left-handed Breslow. Chase Headley and Carlos Beltran followed McCann’s 18th homer with doubles. Jacoby Ellsbury chased Breslow with an RBI single, and Young greeted righthander Alex Ogando by driving his first pitch to left for a three-run home run.

In three innings against four Boston relievers, the Yankees had 10 runs (nine earned), nine hits and four walks. Yankees relievers, meanwhile, gave ample support to Tanaka by limiting the Red Sox to no runs, two hits and one walk in three innings.

Since the start of 2011, the Yankees are 9-1 when facing an opposing starting pitcher making his big-league debut and 2-0 this year. The 10 opposing starters are 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA in 53 1/3 innings during that span.

With Severino starting Wednesday night after Owens started Tuesday night, they are only the second set of Yankees and Red Sox pitchers since 1914 to make their major league debuts in the same series against each other. The others were the Red Sox’ Jim Bagby April 18, 1938 and the Yankees’ Atley Donald April 21, 1938, both games at Fenway Park.

Over the last 51 seasons (since 1965), only two Yankees pitchers have made their big-league debuts as starters against the Red Sox: Randy Keisler Sept. 10, 2000 at Boston and Sam Militello Aug. 9, 1992 at Yankee Stadium.

Three-touchdown game for Yankees

The Yankees are going so well offensively that they just laugh at 5-0 deficits. Saturday night at Minneapolis, they were down by that score in the third inning and came back to win the game, 8-5, with a four-run ninth.

Tuesday night at Arlington, Texas, the Yankees did not wait that long to come back from the downside of a 5-0 score. In the very next inning after the Rangers put up a five-spot in the first against Chris Capuano, the Yankees bunched together 11 runs in an offensive outburst that oddly did not contain a home run, their main weapon.

The first eight batters for the Yankees in that 10-hit second inning reached base against Martin Perez, who was replaced before he got an out as all eight guys he put on base eventually scored. Four of the Yankees who batted that inning reached base twice.

Brendan Ryan drove in three runs, as many RBI as he had all season previously, with a couple of doubles. Chase Headley singled twice, knocked in two runs and scored two. Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch, slashed a bases-clearing triple and scored twice. Chris Young doubled and walked and touched the plate twice. The other hits in the inning were singles by John Ryan Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner and a double by Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees did not clear the fence until the third inning when Young bashed a grand slam. He added a fifth RBI with his second double of the game, in the sixth when the Yanks pushed their run total to 19.

By that point, Capuano’s dreadful first inning was a distant memory. This was in modern parlance a “bullpen game” for the Yankees since manager Joe Girardi decided to push the entire rotation back a day. The skipper had hoped to get at least 60 pitches out of Capuano, but the lefthander could not find the plate and walked five batters in addition to allowing three hits in a 42-pitch effort that required a bullpen call with an out remaining in the first inning.

Diego Moreno, called up earlier in the day from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was magnificent in a long-relief role. He faced 17 batters and permitted only one base runner — on a walk – with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 hitless innings before Adam Warren took over in the seventh. Warren set down nine batters in a row to continue the bullpen no-hitter. The Rangers did not have a hit after the first inning. The last 19 Texas batters went out in order.

Moreno will have quite a memory from his first major-league victory. And Warren, who entered the game with a 14-run lead, was credited for a save because he pitched three innings.

The 21-5 victory featured just about everything for the Yankees. Gardner, who homered off position player Adam Rosales in the ninth, scored five runs. Young drove in five runs and scored four. Gregorius had four hits and three RBI. Ryan and Gardner also had three RBI apiece. Ellsbury twice reached base on catcher’s interference — by two different catchers. The Yanks had 11-for-21 (.524) with runners in scoring position.

A-Rod’s homer leads to bullpen formula

The timing of Alex Rodriguez’s 19th home run of the season Friday night could not have been better. A-Rod drove a 1-0 pitch from left-handed reliever Joe Beimel (0-1) into the Yankees’ bullpen with one out in the seventh inning that unlocked a 3-3 score.

The round-tripper, career No. 673, allowed manager Joe Girardi to utilize his winning bullpen combination by bringing in Dellin Betances to work the eighth inning and closer Andrew Miller the ninth. Each did his job and the Yanks had a 4-3 victory over the Mariners in front of a Friday night, sellout crowd of 47,086 at Yankee Stadium.

Home runs made up a big part of both club’s offenses. Kyle Seager took Masahiro Tanaka (6-3) deep twice to account for all of Seattle’s runs. Tanaka allowed only three other hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings to earn his second consecutive victory.

Chris Young continued his torrid hitting against left-handed pitching with a home run in the second inning and a double in the fourth, both off Seattle starter Mike Montgomery. Young scored the Yanks’ second run on a single through the middle by Chase Headley in the fourth.

Against left-handed pitching this year, the righty-swinging Young is batting .365 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 14 RBI in 85 at-bats. Against righties, Young is a .178 hitter with four doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI in 129 at-bats. With switch-hitting Carlos Beltran on the 15-day disabled list, Young and lefty-swinging Garrett Jones have formed a nice platoon in right field.

Rodriguez also had a part in the Yankees’ fifth-inning run that had tied the score. He led off with a single and after a walk to Mark Teixeira came home on a single by Brian McCann. A bigger inning was thwarted as Young flied out and Headley grounded into a double play. The Yankees made seven outs in a row before A-Rod’s tie-breaking homer in the seventh.

Fresh from his scoreless inning of work Tuesday night in the All-Star Game at Cincinnati, Betances handled the eighth inning flawlessly with two strikeouts and an infield out. Miller, on the other hand, had to deal with some drama in the ninth.

The lefthander retired the first two batters on ground balls to third base, but pinch hitter Mark Trumbo lined a two-strike pitch to left field for a single. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon then turned to Jesus Montero as a pinch hitter.

The former Yankees prospect who went to Seattle in the trade that brought Michael Pineda, Saturday’s starter, to the Bronx, has been largely a bust for the Mariners. Called up from Triple A Tacoma eight days ago, Montero had a chance to seek revenge against the Yankees, but he struck out as Miller chalked up his 19th save.

The Yankees held the Mariners’ 3-4 hitters in check. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were each 0-for-4 with the latter striking out three times.

The Yankees’ victory in their first post-All-Star break game allowed them to open up some ground in the American League East. Their lead swelled to 4 1/2 games over the Rays and Blue Jays. Toronto pulled into a tie with Tampa Bay by beating the Rays Friday night. Meanwhile, the Orioles, who come to the Stadium next week, fell a game below .500 (44-45) with a loss at Detroit. At 49-40, the Yankees are the only team in the division with a record above .500.

Yankees miss chance to take over 1st place in AL East

It was feast or famine for the Yankees during their four-game series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park against the American League West-leading Astros. The Yankees came back from being shut out Thursday night to post a late-inning, come-from-behind victory Friday night behind the native Texans duo of Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Young. The Yanks out-slugged Houston Saturday night in a home run derby of the major leagues’ power leaders only to manage a meager two hits Sunday in failing to fortify Michael Pineda’s route-going effort.

Sunday’s loss turned the series into a split and cost the Yankees a chance to take over first place in the AL East because Tampa Bay also lost. There is quite a logjam in this division. Only one game separates four teams with the Orioles tied for second with the Yankees and the Blue Jays a half-game behind both of them. Only the Red Sox, eight games out of first place, seem buried at this point.

The good news Sunday was Pineda, who recovered from a God-awful game last week at home against the lowly Phillies when he could not get through the fourth inning and was hammered for eight runs and 11 hits. The righthander bounced back with eight strong innings Sunday in which he gave up three runs – one of them decidedly tainted – and seven hits with no walks (always a good sign with him) and eight strikeouts.

Unfortunately, Astros starter Collin McHugh was slightly better. He hurt himself with a wild pitch in the third inning that led directly to a run on a single by Brett Gardner, whose adventures in the outfield the next inning allowed the Astros to tie the score. Gardner and left fielder Garrett Jones had miscommunication on a fly ball to left-center field by Carlos Correa that fell between them. Gardner inadvertently kicked the ball as well with Correa rounding the bases. The official scorer ruled a double for Correa and a two-base error for Garnder.

A couple of years ago, I took a friend of mine who is a Mets fan to a game at Citi Field on a day the Yankees were out of town and not scheduled. The Mets’ starting pitcher that day, making his major-league debut, was Collin McHugh. Seated behind us were about a dozen of his friends and relatives from Georgia, and what a treat they got. McHugh pitched a two-hit shutout over seven innings before coming out of the game. The Mets did not score for him, however, and eventually lost the game, 1-0, to the Rockies.

McHugh never pitched that well for the Mets again and he was traded to Colorado for infielder Eric Young Jr. The Rockies eventually placed him on waivers from where the Astros scooped him up. He was 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA last year for an Astros team that lost 92 games and with Sunday’s victory improved to 9-3 albeit with a 4.51 ERA this year. Some pitchers take a while to develop.

Gardner’s single and one by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth was all the offense the Yankees could muster against McHugh, who was in position to win when the Astros broke the tie on a triple by Evan Gattis in the seventh and got a tack-on run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Jason Castro.

Just the night before, the Yankees had been in a home run derby contest against Houston. A first-inning grand slam by Brian McCann and a second-inning, two-run shot by Chris Young created a 6-0 lead for Masahiro Tanaka, who like Pineda had been coming off a poor outing (five innings, 10 hits, seven runs-five earned) in a 12-4 loss to the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Unlike Pineda, Tanaka did not rebound. The six-run bulge was gone by the fifth inning as he was touched for home runs by Correa, Chris Carter and Jose Altuve. The Japanese righthander looked shell-shocked when he left the game after five. His teammates rebounded for him. Mark Teixeira thrust the Yankees back in front with a two-run double in the eighth. Chase Headley led off the ninth with a monster of a drive to left-center off lefthander Tony Sipp to complete the comeback behind nifty relief work by winning pitcher Chasen Shreve (5-1), Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances (sixth save).

A third straight comeback was not in the cards for the Yankees Sunday.

Young & Eovaldi do a Texas two-step for Yanks

A couple of Texas natives had big nights deep in the heart of their home state Friday night for the Yankees.

Houston native Chris Young ended the Yanks’ 15-inning scoreless streak at Minute Maid Park by clouting a three-run home run in the seventh off previously untouchable reliever Will Harris to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead that was upheld by three Yankees relievers.

The rally created a winning decision for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (7-2), who worked six strong innings under the watchful eye of fellow Alvin, Texas, native Nolan Ryan, who was seated in the front row behind the plate alongside his wife, Ruth. The Hall of Famer rejoined the Astros organization last year after leaving the Rangers.

Pitching in his home area for the first time, Eovaldi followed his sturdy outing Old-Timers’ Day with another solid performance in front of scores of friends and relatives in the crowd of 37,748. The righthander allowed two runs, five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings.

And yet he was in position to be on the losing side in the game because Astros starter Vincent Velasquez was even better over the first six innings. He held the Yankees to three hits with only one base runner getting beyond first.

One out into the seventh, however, the Yankees made their move. Singles by Carlos Beltran and Garrett Jones prompted Houston manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Harris, who entered the game with a 4-0 record and 0.78 ERA. With no left-handed bat on the bench, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stayed with Young, who rewarded the skipper by putting a charge into a 1-1 cut fastball for his ninth home run of the season.

Young’s numbers this season are lopsided. He leads American League hitters against left-handed pitching (.379, eight doubles, four home runs, 10 RBI in 66 at-bats), including two hits off Dallas Keuchel, who shut down the rest of the Yankees Thursday night. Against righthanders, however, Young was batting only .177 going into Friday night’s game. By going 3-for-4 against righties, Young improved his stats to .210 with two doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI in 100 at-bats.

Minute Maid Park has become a home away from home for Young. In 25 career games there, he is hitting .410 with seven doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 33 RBI in 105 at-bats with 14 multi-hit games. It marks his highest career average in any major league park.

Young, a graduate of Houston’s Bellaire High School, extended his hitting streak to nine games since June 18 during which he has batted .471 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 34 at-bats. Over the span, Young has raised his season batting average from .220 to .271.

Once the Yankees moved in front, Girardi turned to his pen, which did a superb job. Chasen Shreve struck out the side in the seventh. After a two-out walk by Justin Wilson in the eighth, Dellin Betances was called on for a four-out save, which he handled perfectly with two strikeouts.

Brett Gardner continued his hot hitting with a double and a single and is up to .294. With Tampa Bay losing, the Yankees moved to a half-game of the first-place Rays in the American League East.

Gardner back to catalyst form on homestand

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner were a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the batting order for the Yankees the first month of the season. But since Ellsbury went on the 15-day disabled list May 20 because of a right knee strain, Gardner seemed lost without his partner.

Going into this homestand, Gardner was in a 94 at-bat stretch in which he hit .223 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBI while watching his season batting average slide from .291 to .262. He has turned it around the past three nights at Yankee Stadium, however, climaxed by a 4-for-5, three-RBI performance Friday night that has pushed his average back up to .277. And not surprisingly, the Yankees won all three games with Gardner back in catalyst mode.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was at a loss before the game to explain the club’s seesaw season during which they have had seemingly equal stretches of good and bad play. One thing the skipper did say that what the Yankees do when things are going good is “not giving extra outs and hitting home runs.”

They adhered to that axiom in the 7-2 victory over the Tigers. Three home runs, including Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit, against former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander powered the Yankees to their third straight victory and kept the Detroit righthander winless at Yankee Stadium in four career regular-season decisions. As for not giving extra outs, well, they came close to that but were able to rectify their lone error with a snappy play at the plate to defuse a potentially productive sixth inning for the Tigers.

The Yankees had just taken a 4-2 lead on a two-run home run by Gardner (No. 7) in the bottom of the fifth. The Yanks’ two prior homers were solo shots by Rodriguez (No. 13, career No. 667) in the first and Didi Gregorius (No. 3) in the second. In only his second start of the season after coming back from a right triceps injury, Verlander was not of Cy Young vintage.

Ian Kinsler started the sixth against Adam Warren (5-4), who had yet another strong night as a starter (8 IP, 7 H, 2R-ER, 0 BB, 7 K), with an infield single. Miguel Cabrera, who had struck out in his first two at-bats against Warren, lined a single to right field, sending Kinsler to third.

Yankees third baseman Chase Headley failed to handle right fielder Carlos Beltran’s relay for an error, but he atoned for that immediately when he retrieved the ball behind the bag and threw home to nail Kinsler at the plate on a fine tag by catcher John Ryan Murphy. Cabrera took second on the play but died there as Victor Martinez fouled out to Headley and Yoenis Cespedes grounded out.

The Yankees then pulled away with two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Gardner was a significant part of both rallies. He got the seventh inning started by bunting for a single with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch. In the eighth, Gardner’s two-out single to left scored Chris Young, who had doubled.

Young entered the game as a defensive replacement in center field for rookie Mason Williams, who jammed his right shoulder sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the fifth inning. Williams was examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad, but no further tests were ordered.