HOUSTON – Make that two gut-punches deep in the heart of Texas.
One night after blowing a late lead in a tough one-run loss to the Astros, the Yankees went through it again Tuesday night, this time taking a 6-3 defeat at Minute Maid Park.
The Yankees (5-6), who turned in another overall sloppy performance — a trend early in this season —will try to avoid a three-game sweep Wednesday night on this six-game trip that started with a three-game sweep of their own in Baltimore.
“It’s got to be better, especially when you’re playing a really good team,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Bottom line is we’re close to playing a really good brand and a complete game, we’re just…a breakdown here and there that are really costing us.”
Monday night Zack Britton was the primary culprit, unable to hold a 3-2 lead he was tasked with securing in the seventh inning.
Tuesday night the blame was more widespread.
There was Brett Gardner, who also committed an error in the field, killing a potential rally in the third against Gerrit Cole when he didn’t run out a bunt attempt he thought trickled foul — it had not — leading to a double play.
“Basically gave them two outs there,” Gardner said. “I thought that was a turning point in the game.”
With the score tied at 3 in the eighth, Chad Green walked back-to-back hitters with one out to load the bases. George Springer crushed a two-run double down the leftfield line to make it 5-3. Jose Altuve’s sacrifice fly off Tommy Kahnle made it 6-3.
“I just lost the feel for the baseball right there,” said Green, whose control usually is good. “That just can’t happen in that situation.”
Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save a second straight night, the righty’s fourth overall.
Then there was Clint Frazier, a star with his bat since being called up April 1 and earning everyday duties in left. His defense always has been a question mark among scouts and he showed why Tuesday, diving for two balls and coming up empty on both, which contributed to two runs.
The most significant one came in the seventh with the Yankees up 3-2, a lead provided by Gary Sanchez’s two-run double in the sixth. Jonathan Holder, who stranded a runner at second in the sixth, retired the first two batters of the seventh. But Alex Bregman sent a sinking liner to left, where Frazier charged and left his feet diving after it. The ball glanced off his glove for a double and Michael Brantley followed with a seed to right, the RBI double tying it at 3.
The lefthanded hitting Brantley sliced one to left in the second inning toward the line that Frazier dove for and missed, the ball bouncing off his glove for a double. That led to a sacrifice fly that enabled the Astros (7-5) to tie it at 1 (Luke Voit’s homer off Cole in the first made it 1-0).
“It popped out of my glove twice tonight,” said Frazier, who while on his knees slammed his right hand into the grass after the seventh inning ball. “It’s never an easy play whenever you leave your feet but it’s not an excuse. I should have caught both those balls tonight.”
After striking out the side in the first, righthander Jonathan Loasiga lost his command and was done after three innings and 71 pitches, though he limited the damage, allowing two runs and four hits. The 24-year-old was optioned back to the minors after the game as the Yankees likely will call up a fresh arm for the series finale, which they hope goes better than the first two games.
“There’s definitely times when we’ve made mistakes, myself included, that we need to clean up,” Gardner said of the Yankees’ overall play so far. “When you’re playing a team as good as the Astros you can’t afford to give away extra outs and you can’t afford to make mistakes. They’ll come back to haunt you.”