NEW YORK -- The Yankees got off to a good, if slow, start in a big three-game series against the first-place Houston Astros, eventually scoring a run without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the ninth to win it in (true) walk-off fashion 1-0.
The win pulled the Yankees back into a first-place tie with the Toronto Blue Jays, who were idle.
Great effort: Even though he did not get the win -- that went to Andrew Miller -- Nathan Eovaldi was the star of this one, working eight tidy innings in which he allowed just four hits, walked three, struck out seven and held the troublesome Astros lineup scoreless. It was by far Eovaldi's best outing as a Yankee and perhaps the best of his big league career.
A fine mess, Ollie: Former Met -- and formerly of five other teams -- Oliver Perez came in to pitch the ninth and immediately walked Brett Gardner, wild-pitched him to second, intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez and unintentionally walked Brian McCann to load the bases with none out. Perez threw 15 pitches, 12 of them balls, before A.J. Hinch replaced him with Chad Qualls to face Carlos Beltran, who hit Qualls' first pitch to deep center for a sacrifice fly to score the winning run.
McSnail: The Yankees' best scoring chance of the first seven innings was wiped out when McCann tried to score from third on Chase Headley's lineout to medium center. Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez didn't make a great throw -- it hopped three times in the infield -- but still got the ball to catcher Hank Conger in time for McCann to be out by a half-stride.
Brain lock: The Yankees got a huge break in the sixth inning after Eovaldi allowed the first two hitters to reach base (single, walk). After Gomez sacrificed the runners ahead, Colby Rasmus broke from second on Evan Gattis' grounder to first, not noticing the lead runner (Carlos Correa) had held up. Greg Bird alertly ran Rasmus back and threw him out at second, trading second and third with one out for first and third with two out. Luis Valbuena drove one to deep center, but Jacoby Ellsbury ran it down for the final out, preserving the scoreless tie.
RISP fail: The Yankees got runners to first and second with none out in the third, but came up empty when Ellsbury grounded out, Gardner struck out and A-Rod popped out to shallow right. In fact, the two teams were equally inept, both going 0-for-12 with RISP.
Over the line: Stephen Drew's weak infield single in the third inning constituted a personal milestone -- the first time since Opening Day that the Yankees' struggling second baseman had climbed above the so-called Mendoza Line. The hit brought his batting average on the season to an even .200, a level he had not reached since having one hit in his first five at-bats of the season. Alas, Drew could not maintain that level of performance for long: He grounded out in his next at-bat to drop back to .199.
Gas dispenser: Eovaldi came out firing, striking out the side -- wrapped around a single by Correa -- in the first inning on 11 pitches, four of which were clocked at 100 mph or higher.