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David Phelps does OK as Yanks top Astros

Yankees starting pitcher David Phelps delivers in the

Yankees starting pitcher David Phelps delivers in the first inning against the Houston Astros in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. (May 1, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

With Ivan Nova on the disabled list and not having pitched particularly well before landing there, the Yankees are open to someone taking the struggling pitcher's place.

That someone, David Phelps, took the mound Wednesday night.

"It's a good opportunity for him to get in the rotation,'' manager Joe Girardi said before his team's game against the Astros.

Phelps certainly didn't go out and seize that opportunity, pitching merely OK in a 5-4 victory in front of 34,117 at the Stadium.

The 26-year-old righthander, in his first start of the season, shut out the Astros in the first three innings before a four-run fourth tied the score at 4. He allowed those four runs and eight hits in 52/3 innings.

"That's one of the reasons I'm a little frustrated with today,'' said Phelps, who went 2-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 big-league starts last season and has a 5.56 ERA this year. "I felt like I could have really grabbed the reins and just taken care of things.''

Still, the night overall, though ugly at times, was mostly about successes.

Though blowing plenty of chances, the Yankees (17-10) took two of three from the Astros in going 11-5 in the last 16 games. They took the lead for good in the sixth when Eduardo Nuñez led off with a double and scored on Ichiro Suzuki's double-play groundout.

Boone Logan (2-1) pitched a scoreless 11/3 innings and David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth to get the ball to Mariano Rivera, who made it 11-for-11 in save opportunities.

"They did a great job,'' Girardi said of the 31/3 scoreless innings by the bullpen. "To compete in this division your bullpen has to be a strong point for you.''

A concern could be Robertson, who walked with a slight limp to the dugout after moving awkwardly off the mound breaking for first on Fernando Martinez's groundout to end the eighth. Robertson said he felt "some discomfort'' in his left hamstring area and that it was "sore'' when he got back to the dugout.

"I don't foresee it being a big problem,'' Robertson said. "I'll probably just come in and get some treatment on it [today] and be ready to go on Friday.''

The Yankees had nine hits, including home runs from Robinson Cano and Ben Francisco. Astros starter Erik Bedard lasted four innings, allowing four runs and six hits.

In the third, Cano homered to right-center. It was his eighth homer and 185th of his career, tying Paul O'Neill for 17th on the Yankees' all-time list. Three batters later Francisco hit his first homer as a Yankee to make it 4-0.

But Phelps, who in the first three innings had "the best control I've had all year,'' lost it all in a 30-pitch fourth, which included four hits and two hit batsmen, as the Astros sent nine to the plate in tying it at 4.

It stayed that way until the sixth when heads-up baserunning by Lyle Overbay paid off.

Nuñez ripped a double into the corner in left off Paul Clemens. Nuñez moved to third on a wild pitch and, after Overbay walked and Chris Stewart struck out, came home when Ichiro bounced into a 4-3-6 double play. Second baseman Jose Altuve fielded the grounder and Overbay held up, prohibiting Altuve from putting an easy tag on him. The second baseman threw to first for the first out of the double play, with Nuñez crossing the plate as he did.

"As soon as he hit it, I knew there's no way I'm going to get past [Altuve] without getting tagged,'' said Overbay, who moments before discussed just that scenario with first-base coach Mick Kelleher. "It was kind of a no-brainer.''

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