The Houston Astros opened the second half of the season by sweeping the New York Yankees in a doubleheader Thursday to move closer to the team with baseball’s best record.
Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman both homered and combined for five RBI as the Astros completed the sweep with a 7-5 victory in Game 2.
Houston won the season series against New York, 5-2, with the Yankees’ only lead coming on walk-offs. They finished the season with a .151 batting average against the Astros, their lowest single-season BA against a single opponent all-time, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone seemed bothered by a question that equated this season’s performance against the Astros to their playoff run against them last year.
“I understand it’s a big story,” he said. “I understand the season we’re in. It’s not going to matter unless (it’s) October. If we happen to come back here in October, we’re going to show up. We expect to win. We believe we De are very good They are very good Don’t overdo it.
The Yankees are 64-30. Houston is 61-32.
“You want to get off to a good start, and I think everybody came in ready to play,” Bregman said. “This is what we expect from this ball club every single night … and hopefully we can continue that in the second half.”
Rookie JJ Matijevic’s pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning lifted the Astros to a 3-2 victory in the opener of the day-night doubleheader.
“This is big for us to start 2-0, to get the lead back to double digits,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said of his team’s lead over the Mariners in the AL West.
Aaron Judge hit his MLB-leading 34th homer on a three-run shot from Brandon Bielak to the top of the left field train tracks to cut the lead to 7-5 with one out in the ninth in Game 2.
Rafael Montero, who pitched an inning in the first game, took over and was met with a single by Gleyber Torres. But Matt Carpenter grounded into a double play to end the game and give Montero his seventh save.
Alvarez, who returned from the injured list Thursday, hit his 27th homer into the seats in left field with two outs in the first to give Houston an early lead. The Astros went back-to-back when Bregman singled off Domingo Germán (0-1) four pitches later to make it 2-0.
“The guy hasn’t swung a bat against live pitching and is striking it out in his first at-bat, he’s pretty amazing,” Baker said. “And Bregman is warming up.”
There were runners on second and third with two outs in the second when Alvarez doubled off the wall in left-center to score two more and extend the lead to 4-0. Bregman singled to left to send Alvarez home and make it 5-0.
Judge walked with one out in the third before the Yankees cut the lead to three on a home run by Torres.
The doubleheader coming out of the All-Star break was scheduled to help make up a series that was postponed due to the lockout. Houston won the first game of the series on June 30.
“It’s definitely news to see us play each other,” New York’s Giancarlo Stanton said. “But at the end of the day, we have to be ahead of them on home court (advantage).”
Germán allowed six hits and five runs in three innings in his season debut after missing the first half of the season with a shoulder injury.
Houston starter Luis Garcia (8-5) gave up three hits and two runs in five innings for his fifth straight win after losing his previous four decisions.
In Game 1, Bregman led off the Houston ninth with a single against Michael King (6-3). Bregman advanced to third on Aledmys Díaz’s double. After Yuli Gurriel struck out, pinch-hitter Alvarez was walked intentionally to load the bases.
King looked like he might escape the jam after striking out McCormick, but Matijevic drove in Bregman with an infield single to shortstop.
“The bullpen did a great job and boy, it was an exciting win for us and the fans and for JJ,” Baker said. “I was happy for JJ”
The Astros led 2-1 entering the ninth. But Aaron Hicks singled off Héctor Neris (3-3) and scored on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s two-out single, a grounder that rolled just past shortstop Jeremy Peña for the tying run.
DJ LeMahieu homered in the fifth, but the Yankees were just 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Jordan Montgomery posted a season-high eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits and walked one.
Cristian Javier set a season high by walking four while allowing one run and two hits in five innings. It was Javier’s first start against the Yankees since going seven innings in a combined no-hitter at New York on June 25. Neris and Ryan Pressly completed the historic gem.
It was only the third doubleheader for the domed Minute Maid Park, which opened in 2000.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.