On a day the Yankees put yet another player on the disabled list, Kevin Youkilis, the pitching staff delivered and the lineup was plenty good enough (see below).
The Yankees finish the month of April with a record of 16-10 -- quite good when you consider how many key contributors are on the shelf. They are in second place in the American League East, two games behind the Red Sox. The Astros fall to 8-19, the worst record in the American League.
Houdini act: Hiroki Kuroda did the pitching equivalent of pulling a rabbit out of his hat, wiggling his way out of trouble in each of the first three innings. Kuroda gave up three hits and four walks in his first three frames -- the Astros had multiple runners on base in each inning, including a runner on third base every time. Kuroda needed 67 pitches but stranded all seven Houston runners during that span.
After the third inning, all of a sudden, Kuroda was practically unhittable. He faced the minimum over the next four frames, allowing only one hit -- a single by Jose Altuve to lead off the fifth (Altuve was caught stealing). All told, Kuroda threw seven shutout innings, giving up just four hits, with eight strikeouts and those four early walks. He is now 4-1 on the season, with a 2.25 ERA -- ace-like numbers.
More magic: The Yankees' lineup looks weaker on paper seemingly by the day, thanks to a continuing rash of injuries. Consider: Brennan Boesch was fifth in the batting order on Tuesday and Jayson Nix was sixth -- not exactly meat-of-the-order material. Yet the Yanks scored more than enough runs to win. It helped that they were facing Philip Humber, who entered the game 0-5 -- the worst record in the major leagues -- with a 7.99 ERA.
The Yankees scored single runs in the first and third innings -- both via RBI singles by Travis Hafner. They tacked on two more runs in the fifth, driven in on a grounder by Boesch and an infield single by Nix. And they added three more runs in the eighth off the Houston bullpen, including Lyle Overbay's fourth home run of the season.
Eduardo Nunez, who was hitting just .169 entering the game, had three hits -- two doubles and a single. Hafner and Ichiro Suzuki had three hits as well, and Hafner finished with three RBIs. The Yankees pounded out 15 hits on the night.
Shawn Kelley started the ninth inning and gave up a pair of singles followed by a two-run double by Altuve. Joe Girardi was forced to go to Mariano Rivera to get the final out of the game -- Rivera struck out Jason Castro, earning his 10th save of the season.
What's next: The series finale, Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. David Phelps (1-1, 5.29 ERA) makes his first start of the season for the Yankees, replacing the injured Ivan Nova in the rotation. The Astros will go with lefty Erik Bedard (0-2, 7.98 ERA).