After his team copped a seventh straight win Friday night, Aaron Boone couldn’t boil down the streak’s formula to one aspect. “It’s been a little bit of everything,’’ he said.
It certainly was that Saturday night as the Yankees made it eight in a row with a 7-5 win over the Astros in front of a noisy crowd of 46,034 at the Stadium.
A dash of clutch hitting, a bit of resolve after Jonathan Holder’s implosion in the seventh suddenly put the Yankees behind, some critical pitches by Masahiro Tanaka early and Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton late. And a heavy dose — a really heavy one — of sterling defense.
“I think everything, both offense and defense,” Tanaka said through his translator of what’s keyed the streak. “A lot of things are clicking for us. Guys are coming up with timely hits and pitchers are getting outs when they need to.”
Giancarlo Stanton, who has mostly had it rough from fans in the Bronx in his one-plus seasons here, contributed two of the most timely hits, a pair of ground balls that were exit-velocity specials and went for two-run singles. After Austin Romine lined a tying home run to rightfield off Ryan Pressly with one out in the seventh, Stanton’s two-out single put the Yankees up 7-5. Pressly entered with a 0.81 ERA.
“Big at-bats by him,” Boone said before taking a not-so-veiled poke at those who have given Stanton a hard time. “And I hope everyone takes notice of that.” He added, “Just sometimes we forget what a good player he is. I hope they saw those at-bats.”
The AL East-leading Yankees moved 5 1⁄2 games ahead of the Rays and eight games ahead of the Red Sox. The Astros (48-30) have lost seven straight.
Wade Miley held the Yankees hitless until Gio Urshela’s two-run homer in the fifth made it 2-0. That gave the Yankees 25 straight games with at least one home run and tied the franchise record set in June 1941.
“This is a confident group,” Luke Voit said. “I think everybody in this locker room expects the best out of us every night.”
The Yankees weren’t at their best at every turn Saturday but won anyway.
Ottavino pitched a scoreless eighth, though he put two on before escaping by striking out Jose Altuve looking. With Aroldis Chapman unavailable after pitching the previous two nights and three of the previous four, Britton earned his third save, which hardly tells the story. He allowed three walks, one intentional, but retired Tyler White on a liner to right to end it.
“Put myself in a jam there, but I’ve done it before,” Britton said. “I think the best thing I can lean on is experience. There’s pretty much no situation I haven’t been in in the ninth inning.”
Stanton’s first two-run single came in the sixth, broke a 2-2 tie and gave him his first RBIs of the season, but Holder, who replaced Tanaka in the seventh, gave up the lead. Aaron Hicks momentarily saved him with a sliding catch in left-center, but Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley singled to set up Yordan Alvarez, who crushed a down-the-middle 2-and-2 changeup to right for a three-run homer and a 5-4 Houston lead.
Tanaka allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings, stranding six. He was the recipient of most of the stellar defensive plays — Luke Voit saving a hit with a diving stop down the line, Stanton making a running catch at the wall in left and Aaron Judge, from the track in right, firing to second to turn a single into an out.
“Just keep pounding,” Stanton said of the winning streak. “A day like today, we’re getting no-hit for five innings and there’s no stress. Just keep pushing the envelope and having tough at-bats.”