HOUSTON — For one game at least, the Yankees didn’t miss the ninth-inning heat of reliever Aroldis Chapman, who was traded to the Cubs Monday. Starter Michael Pineda surrendered only a leadoff home run in a superb seven-inning outing, and relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller preserved a 2-1 Yankees win at Minute Maid Park.
The win put the Yankees a season-high three games above .500 (51-48). Pineda (5-9) gave up five hits and struck out eight. Betances struck out the side in the Astros’ eighth, but the ending came with some nervous moments in the ninth when Luis Valbuena got a leadoff single against Miller and pinch-runner Jake Marisnick was called safe at second on a one-out grounder. Miller then got Carlos Gomez to ground into a game-ending double play.
“That was interesting,” Miller said. “I thought they called [Marisnick] out on the field. I just tried to collect myself. I knew I was one pitch away. I’m pretty good at getting ground balls.”
Catcher Austin Romine, whose eighth-inning double drove in Chase Headley from first base with the winning run, expressed admiration for the heart Pineda showed after the Astros’ George Springer took him deep to lead off the bottom of the first.
“I said, ‘Big Mike, keep it real, keep it calm,’ ” Romine said. “He put up zero after zero.”
Manager Joe Girardi called it Pineda’s “best performance of the season.” It had to be because he was matched against A.L. Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (6-10), who started badly early this season but was on form Monday night, giving up one hit and facing the minimum through four innings.
The Yankees tied the score at 1 in the fifth on a two-out double by Didi Gregorious, who scored on a bloop single by Headley, who fought off a tough cutter from Keuchel. “He was really good tonight,” Headley said. “I got one to drop. It was a big hit.”
Pineda got into a jam with two outs in the sixth when Jose Altuve beat out an infield single before walks to Carlos Correa and Luis Valbuena loaded the bases for third baseman Alex Bregman in his major-league debut. Bregman is ESPN’s No. 1 major league prospect, but his long fly to right fell at the warning track.
“I was a little worried,” Pineda said, “because a grand slam would have killed my game.”
It turned into a fitting ending for the Yankees when Miller survived the ninth for the save. With a smile, Headley said, “It wouldn’t happen any other way, would it?”