HOUSTON : Charlie Morton and the Houston Astros ended the New York Yankees’ winning streak Monday night — and they think they sent a little message in the process.
Morton pitched two-hit ball into the eighth inning and struck out 10 as the defending World Series champions snapped New York’s nine-game run with a 2-1 victory.
“We want to prove a point. We want to make a statement that we’re the team to beat and you have to come past us first,” said closer Ken Giles, who struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
Carlos Correa had two hits and an RBI for Houston in the first meeting between the teams since Game 7 of last year’s AL Championship Series, when Morton allowed two hits over five innings for the win in a 4-0 victory that sent the Astros to the World Series.
After this one, New York outfielder Brett Gardner was not at all interested in talking about the 2017 ALCS.
“I’ve been asked about it about eight times already in the last two days and I know that’s what you guys want to write about, but last year’s over and done with,” he said. “Obviously, they beat us last year, and this year is a new year. They’ve got a really good team and we do, too, but tonight we just came up a little short.”
Houston has won seven straight at home against the Yankees (18-10) including the postseason, holding them to no more than one run in each of their last six games here. The Astros (20-10) tied the best 30-game start in franchise history, also accomplished last year and in 1973.
“We feel like we have the better team,” Correa said. “We’ve just got to show it every single day when we take the field. At the end of the day, we’re the defending champions. Everybody is trying to knock us down. Everybody is trying to beat us, so we’ve got to go out there and try to be consistent every day.”
Morton (4-0) had allowed just one hit when Gleyber Torres chased him with a two-out double in the eighth. Brad Peacock took over and walked pinch-hitter Aaron Judge, who didn’t start for the first time this season, and Torres stole third base.
Chris Devenski replaced Peacock and was greeted with an RBI single by Gardner that cut the lead to 2-1. Devenski then fanned AL player of the week Didi Gregorius on three pitches to end the inning.
Sonny Gray (1-2) yielded four hits and two runs while walking three in six innings to snap a streak of three straight starts in which he didn’t get out of the fifth inning. “I thought it was a step in the right direction for me, personally, but unfortunately Morton was a little bit better — maybe a lot better,” Gray said.
George Springer hit a leadoff single, advanced to second on a balk and took third on a groundout by Jose Altuve. Houston grabbed a 1-0 lead when Correa grounded out. Altuve singled to start the fourth before Correa drew a walk. A double by Yuli Gurriel sent Altuve home to make it 2-0.
Morton bounced back after lasting a season-low four innings in his previous start. He retired his first seven batters before Torres walked in the third. Austin Romine grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The right-hander struck out two in the fourth before walking Gary Sanchez to start the fifth. Sanchez was stranded when Morton whiffed Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar and Neil Walker.
Romine got New York’s first hit with one out in the sixth, but Morton struck out Gardner before Gregorius popped out. “His curveball was the pitch tonight,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It was the best it’s been I think all year and that’s saying a lot.”
Yankees: 3B Brandon Drury, on the disabled list because of severe migraines, will continue his rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the next few days. “We feel like he’s doing well and doing better,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s going to continue to kind of go with his protocols and some of the treatments he’s been doing and we’ll continue to evaluate him over the next few days.” Drury went 1 for 3 and committed three errors at third base Monday. He is 7 for 16 in five games with the RailRiders.
Yankees prospect Thairo Estrada was promoted from Class A Tampa to Triple-A and went 0 for 5 on Monday. The infielder opened the season on the disabled list after being shot in the right thigh area in January during a robbery attempt in his hometown of Bejuma, Venezuela.
HARDEN IN THE HOUSE
Houston Rockets star James Harden took in the game from a suite. The front-runner for NBA MVP waved to the crowd and received a loud ovation when he was introduced and shown on the video board at the end of the sixth inning. Harden had a night off after the Rockets routed the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday night. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Houston.
Yankees: LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA) starts Tuesday night at Houston. He didn’t factor in the decision in his last start when he allowed four hits and two runs over five innings against Minnesota.
Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36) has the lowest ERA through the first six starts of a season in his career.