HOUSTON — Michael Pineda gave the Yankees what they needed Sunday. The Bombers didn’t return the favor.
Coming off the worst start of his career, Pineda threw eight innings of three-run ball, but a major fielding gaffe and a feeble offense against former Met Collin McHugh doomed him and the Bombers to a 3-1 loss at Minute Made Park.
Pineda allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits, striking out eight without issuing a walk. But McHugh limited the Bombers to only two hits, walking two and striking out eight.
One of those runs came on a botched play by center fielder Brett Gardner and left fielder Garrett Jones, who let Carlos Correa’s fly ball to left-center fall between them. Making matters worse, Gardner then kicked the ball to the wall, allowing Correa to come all the way around to score. It was scored a double and a two-base error.
“Just a bad play,” Gardner said. “You can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes when you’re facing a guy that’s throwing the ball as well as McHugh was today. Just frustrating, as good as Big Mike pitched. It’s frustrating we couldn’t get the win for him.”
Correa doubled again in the seventh to set up the go-ahead run, which came on Evan Gattis’ triple off Pineda.
Yankees’ Garrett Jones (l.) and Brett Gardner see – or don’t see – a ball drop between them during Sunday’s 3-1 loss in Houston.
“I thought he had good stuff from the beginning,” Joe Girardi said of Pineda. “It’s unfortunate because he pitched a really good game. Most days we’re going to score more runs than that and he’s going to win.”
Luke Gregerson took over in the ninth and sat the middle of the Yankees lineup down in order, picking up his 18th save.
The Yankees missed out on a chance to regain sole possession of first place in the American League East after the Rays lost in Boston, and remain a half-game behind Tampa Bay.
Pineda was coming off a 3.1-inning, eight-run catastrophe against the Phillies. But he continued his recent trend of alternating good and bad starts, pitching eight innings for the first time since May 5.
That was important for the Yankees, who were without the services of Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve and Bryan Mitchell due to their recent workload.
“It helps our bullpen, obviously,” Girardi said. “But the bottom line is we wanted to win the game no matter how we had to use Michael or the bullpen. We just didn’t.”
Collin McHugh gets pumped after whiffing Brett Gardner in the eighth innning.
Pineda strolled through the first three innings, facing the minimum nine batters while allowing one hit and striking out three.
Gardner started the scoring with an RBI single against McHugh in the third, but he and Jones gave the run back with their miscommunication in the fourth as the Astros tied the game on the fluke play.
“I think the ball was kind of in between where he was catching it easy and I was catching it easy,” Jones said. “We both started calling it and couldn’t hear each other.”
“Obviously it’s a play that has to be made,” Girardi said.
McHugh handled the Yankees’ lineup in the middle innings, retiring 10 straight batters following Gardner’s third-inning hit.
“Just staying off the middle of the plate, mixing in his curveballs real slow and real big,” Gardner said. “You see it coming in there and you think it’s going to be a strike, and it just falls off the table and doesn’t get to you.”
Stephen Drew tags out Astros’ Jose Altuve attmepting to steal second base.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Michael Pineda goes eight innings, saving the bullpen, but can’t get a win.
David J. Phillip/AP
Astros’ Evan Gattis bashes an RBI triple.
The Astros broke the tie in the seventh as Correa started the rally with his second double. Jose Altuve bunted him to third, though that turned out to be an unnecessary part of the equation as Gattis tripled off the center-field wall to give Houston a 2-1 lead.
Pineda stranded the runner at third, fanning Luis Valbuena for his seventh strikeout of the day before getting Chris Carter to pop out to hold the deficit at one run.
“I’m feeling good because I pitched a good game, but I lost,” Pineda said. “I don’t want to lose. I want to win the game and help my team.”
McHugh, who had held the opposition to three or fewer runs in 10 of his first 15 starts, saw his streak of 10 straight outs end with Alex Rodriguez’s sixth-inning single, but the righthander went right back to work, retiring the next seven Yankees to carry the one-run lead through the eighth.
“We just didn’t do much off of him,” Girardi said.
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