The Yankees succeeded on Opening Day in one respect.
They actually scored — two runs, no less — against perhaps their biggest tormentor from 2015, Houston lefthander Dallas Keuchel.
But leftfielder Aaron Hicks, in the lineup because of his ability to hit lefties, committed a costly misplay on a fourth-inning fly ball, and Dellin Betances made a critical throwing error in the eighth, the miscues contributing mightily to an eventful 5-3 loss to the Astros in front of a thoroughly chilled crowd of 47,820 at the Stadium, the Yankees’ fifth straight season-opening defeat.
Joe Girardi put the game under protest in the eighth inning after what he felt was a missed runner interference call by plate umpire Dana DeMuth on the Betances play.
After Masahiro Tanaka allowed two runs and four hits over 5 2⁄3 innings — he was perfect through three innings — and Chasen Shreve contributed 1 1⁄3 scoreless frames, Betances came on for the eighth with the score tied at 2.
He walked Jose Altuve, whose fourth-inning liner led to Hicks’ mistake and an ensuing double, and the Astros’ leadoff man then stole second. George Springer flew to left, bringing up Carlos Correa, whose solo homer in the sixth tied the score at 2. The shortstop hit a dribbler to the right of the mound, which Betances fielded cleanly. But the 6-8 pitcher threw high to first, airmailing Mark Teixeira, the error allowing Altuve to score to make it 3-2.
An incensed Girardi argued demonstrably with DeMuth that Correa should have been called out for running on the grass and interfering with the throw, but the call stood and Girardi protested the game. A walk to Colby Rasmus and two-run single by Luis Valbuena — Rasmus was running on the pitch and scored from first — put the Yankees in a 5-2 hole.
Didi Gregorius’ solo homer off Ken Giles in the bottom of the eighth drew the Yankees within 5-3 but they went quietly in a 1-2-3 ninth against Luke Gregerson, named the Houston closer on Sunday.
Keuchel, who did not allow a run over three starts and a combined 22 innings last year against the Yankees, including the postseason, allowed two runs and three hits over seven innings Tuesday and earned the win. Keuchel walked two and struck out 28 against the Yankees last season but did not have that kind of command in the frigid conditions, walking four but still striking out five.
After two perfect innings by Tanaka, the Yankees got on the board in the bottom of the second. Carlos Beltran grounded a single to right with one out and Brian McCann drew the Yankees’ second walk. Chase Headley followed with a grounder up the middle where shortstop Correa bobbled the ball but still managed to get the out at first. But the bobble, which prevented a likely double play, had consequences as Starlin Castro, who hit .367 this spring, lined an 0-and-1 cutter down the leftfield line for a two-run double to make it 2-0.
Hicks’ mistake hurt Tanaka in the fourth. Altuve led off with a liner to left that Hicks broke in on, then saw go over his head for a double. Springer reached on an infield hit, putting runners at the corners, and Correa hit a ground smash to third where Headley made a nice stop on to his right, the 5-4 putout getting Altuve in to make it 2-1.
The Astros threatened in the fifth when Preston Tucker doubled to right with one out, but Tanaka got out of it, striking out Marwin Gonzalez and getting Jason Castro to ground out.
Tanaka seemed to dodge trouble a few times when the Astros just missed splitters that came in flat. That good fortune lasted until two outs in the sixth when Correa sent a 1-and-0 splitter that stayed up into the seats in right, tying it at 2.