Michael Pineda was back on the mound for the first time since July 24 after recovering from a right forearm strain, but the righthander couldn't reinvigorate the Yankees, who ended a 10-game homestand Wednesday with a 6-2 loss to the Astros.
And once again the offense did little to show it was coming out of its doldrums.
Theories advanced included the ever popular dog days of summer, fatigued bodies and strong opposing pitching. Brian McCann was having none of that. "You could say running into good pitchers, but I think the at-bats overall could probably get better,'' McCann said.
The Yankees are looking up at the Blue Jays, who lead the the American League East by two games after Wednesday night's 12-4 victory over Texas. The Yankees started the homestand with a three-game sweep of the Twins. After that, they lost three of four to the Indians and two of three to the Astros.
"The fact that we started 3-0 and ended up 5-5, it's not what you want,'' Joe Girardi said. "There's nothing we can do about that. And we have to go out and have a good road trip. That's the bottom line.''
Pineda gave up a second-inning home run to Evan Gattis -- the Astro's first of two in the game -- but did not unravel until the fifth. Carlos Gomez singled and went to third on Luis Valbuena's base hit to center. Jake Marisnick's bunt toward first scored Gomez, and Marisnick was safe after confusion on the play. Pineda walked Castro to load the bases. Jose Altuve's sacrifice fly scored Valbuena and Pineda was removed. Reliever Chasen Shreve gave up an RBI single and allowed another run to score on a wild pitch to make it 5-0.
"The first couple of innings, I threw the ball really good,'' Pineda said. "I got a little trouble [in the fifth] -- one walk, a couple of base hits, it's the game, so. The pitches were working, I didn't have good luck. They didn't really hit the ball good. The good thing is I'm feeling good. I'll be back for pitching every five days.''
Girardi said of Pineda, "I thought he did pretty good . . . The inning kind of got away from him, It cost us some runs. I thought he threw the ball pretty well.''
The Yankees were outscored 19-1 by the Astros over 15 innings until Didi Gregorius hit a two-run homer in the seventh off starter Collin McHugh. The former Met improved to 14-7.
The Yankees, who have lost five of seven, had just five hits. The 0-for-4 club included McCann, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Chris Young,
Another theory making the rounds is that Gardner, who started in center for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury, could be hurting. "If there was something wrong with me I probably wouldn't tell you all anyway so, that's the way it is,'' he said. "Nobody's going to wait around on you. Or wait for you to get better . . . Unfortunately everything starts at the top of the lineup and I didn't do anything at all. That's our job up there and I didn't do a good job of that today [and] haven't been doing a good job of that recently.
"I know that we're obviously not playing up to expectations. I know from the top to the bottom, especially the fans, they expect more out of us. But nobody expects more out of us than ourselves.''