HOUSTON — A bruised and beaten-up Yankees club arrived here from Chicago at about 5 a.m. Friday and got to its hotel a little after 6.
The Yankees had split a marathon of a four-game series against the woeful White Sox, a series in which three rookies made their major-league debuts because of a conga line to the disabled list. They were upset about losing rookie Dustin Fowler, who suffered a horrific knee injury in the first inning of his major-league debut Thursday night. They had lost 12 of their last 16 games. And now they had to take on MLB’s top team, the Astros, in the opener of a three-game series.
Not a recipe for success. But the Yankees posted perhaps their most impressive win of the season, 13-4, in front of 40,024 at Minute Maid Park.
“They’ve got a really, really, really good team,” said Brett Gardner, who hit a grand slam and tied a career high with six RBIs. “Under tough circumstances, with everything last night and getting in early this morning, it was a big win for us.”
The Yankees (43-35), who plan to have a fourth rookie, outfielder Clint Frazier, join them Saturday, trailed 3-1 entering the sixth but scored five runs. Gardner’s two-out grand slam in the seventh blew it open.
“I think it’s a big win for us,” Joe Girardi said. “With all we’ve been through, the injuries that we went through the last two weeks and what we all witnessed last night, it was pretty disturbing for all of us, and the way they responded today is what they’ve done all year.”
While Girardi didn’t confirm that Frazier, 22, will be in Houston on Saturday — “The reason I don’t say a guy’s going to be here before he gets here is just in case he doesn’t get here,” he said — he had no trouble describing Frazier’s attributes and spelling out his philosophy on playing time.
“He’s has the ability to play offense and defense, he has power, he’s made adjustments, and he was not overwhelmed in spring training,” Girardi said. “If you’re going to bring up a player that you foresee as an everyday player in the future, you’re going to play him pretty often.”
Righthander Lance McCullers Jr., entered with a 7-1 record and a 2.53 ERA but didn’t make it out of the sixth as the Yankees drove his pitch count up early. He left with a 3-1 lead but wound up being charged with three runs and six hits in 5 1⁄3 innings.
The Yankees did most of their damage in the sixth against Michael Feliz, who allowed four runs (two earned) and four hits in one-third of an inning.
Michael Pineda (8-4) didn’t have his power strikeout stuff but grinded through six innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter.
The Yankees had 14 hits, three each by Gardner and Ronald Torreyes. Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine and Chris Carter added two each.
Notes & quotes: Aaron Judge’s first-inning walk extended his on-base streak to 32 games . . . The Yankees scored three runs in the ninth with outfielder Nori Aoki pitching for the Astros (54-27). He retired Judge on a fly to center . . . Matt Holliday (viral infection) hasn’t shown any signs of improvement. “Still moments where he feels pretty good and moments where he feels like he’s wiped out,’’ Joe Girardi said, “so they’re [doctors] continuing to do [tests].” . . Girardi said Tyler Clippard, who struck out the side Thursday night, was at his grandmother’s funeral Friday but is expected to rejoin the Yankees on Saturday . . . Infielder Miguel Andujar, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs Wednesday and was sent back to the minors Thursday, was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Right hander Bryan Mitchell also was recalled. Fowler was placed on the 10-day DL and righthander Ronald Herrera was optioned to Triple-A . . . Girardi said CC Sabathia (hamstring strain) will be ready to return to the rotation early next week.