HOUSTON - It's never easy to sit the hot hand, but Joe Girardi did just that Thursday night with Brett Gardner.

His reasoning certainly was sound, even though Gardner was coming off a homestand in which he went 17-for-36 (.472) with four homers, 10 RBIs and 12 runs in eight games. He had seven hits in his last 13 at-bats and 13 hits in his last 25 at-bats.

But Houston started lefthander Dallas Keuchel, who has been particularly tough on lefthanded hitters. Keuchel had limited lefties to a .141/.180/.200 slash line.

Gardner played in 67 of the first 72 games, including the last 13. "Just choosing to give Gardy a day off," said Girardi, who started Chris Young in center and batted him leadoff. "And Keuchel's been extremely tough on lefthanders, so I'm putting as many righthanders as I can in there."

Brian McCann, who didn't play Wednesday afternoon, sat a second straight game. John Ryan Murphy, who has worked well with starter Adam Warren at times this season, got the start.

Ellsbury still not readyThere still is no timetable for Jacoby Ellsbury, on the DL since May 20 with a sprained right knee, to play in rehab games, making it more and more of a long shot that he will return before the All-Star break.

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"We need to get him to run 100 percent before we feel comfortable sending him out on a short rehab," Girardi said. "[He's running] 75, 85 percent. You want to see him turn it loose and be able to feel good the next day."

Miller throwingAndrew Miller (flexor strain) again played catch. "Everything was good," said Girardi, who didn't have a date for when the reliever will resume throwing off a mound but added, "It shouldn't be too long."