Two rookies and a team elder gave the Yankees one of their most thrilling and significant victories of the season, a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros in 10 innings Tuesday night.
Brett Gardner, 34, the oldest position player on the team, hit two home runs, including a game-tying, two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth. Then the rookie infielders Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres delivered 10th-inning hits that ended the game.
The winning rally began with two outs in the 10th and Andujar facing Astros reliever Brad Peacock with an 0-2 count. Andujar laced the next pitch into the left-field corner for a double.
Torres, who earlier in the day had been named the American League’s Player of the Week for the period ending on Sunday, followed with a single to right to drive in the winning run.
The victory tied the three-game series against the Astros, who eliminated the Yankees from the American League Championship Series in seven games last year and then won the World Series, at a game apiece. In the rubber game Wednesday night, the Yankees ace Luis Severino will face his team’s playoff nemesis, Dallas Keuchel.
Although the Yankees got a leadoff home run from Gardner and held a 2-1 lead against Charlie Morton, Houston’s starter, things gradually unraveled amid ragged defensive play and missed opportunities.
The Yankees, who lost a 5-1 game to the Astros on Monday, were three outs away from a fairly routine 5-3 defeat when Andujar, their 23-year-old third baseman, drew a leadoff walk. After a strikeout by Torres, Gardner homered off reliever Chris Devenski.
For Gardner, who had homered just once in the first 43 games, this was his third home run in three games.
The Yankees were aided immensely by a fortuitous bounce in the top of the 10th inning after Aroldis Chapman walked Tony Kemp with two out and sent him to second with a wild pitch. Chapman then uncorked a 100-mile-per-hour fastball that sailed over catcher Gary Sanchez, hit the padding behind home plate and bounced right back to Sanchez, who whirled and easily threw out Kemp as he tried to advance to third.
The game had started well for the Yankees, with Gardner belting Morton’s second pitch of the game into the right-field seats to take a 1-0 lead.
The Astros tied it on Evan Gattis’s solo shot off C. C. Sabathia in the second, but the Yankees regained the lead when Torres singled in Andujar, who had doubled off Morton, who came into the game with a 7-0 record and 2.04 earned run average.
But things began to go wrong in the fourth, when Sabathia surrendered a two-run double to Marwin Gonzalez. He gave up two more runs in the fifth that were officially unearned but still largely the pitcher’s fault.
After taking a 3-2 lead on Gonzalez’s double, the Astros got the leadoff runner to first in the fifth inning when Andujar’s throw on Alex Bregman’s bouncer pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first.
Jose Altuve, last year’s American League batting champion and Most Valuable Player, lined a shot off Sabathia’s glove. For a moment, Sabathia could not find the ball, and when he did, he made an ill-advised throw that sailed about eight feet wide of Bird into right field, putting runners on second and third.
That set up a run-scoring single by Yuli Gurriel and a sacrifice fly by Gattis to extend Houston’s lead to 5-2. The Yankees drew a run closer when Aaron Judge lined a Morton fastball off the facing of the second deck in right.
But in the seventh with two out and Gardner, who had singled, on second, Giancarlo Stanton tapped the first pitch back to reliever Joe Smith and was retired to end the inning as the crowd booed.
It was another frustrating night for Stanton, who was hitless in his first four at-bats and 0-for-16 on the homestand before reaching on an infield single three batters after Gardner’s game-tying home run. He and Judge, who had doubled, were stranded when Sanchez struck out.
Then the youngsters struck. After Andujar’s double, his infield partner, the 21-year-old Torres, delivered the win. His run-scoring single compensated for two errors (out of the Yankees’ five) at second base, and he ended the night drenched in a celebratory shower.