MLB: Yankees lose to lowly Astros in the opener
HOUSTON — Sure, it could have been worse.
The Yankees could have been shut out, for instance.
And no one got hurt.
The Yankees’ season opener, the last of Derek Jeter’s career, was a bust, a 6-2 loss to the expected-to-be-lousy Astros on Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 42,117 at Minute Maid Park.
It was the Yankees’ third straight loss on Opening Day and fifth defeat in their last six.
There were several culprits, starting with CC Sabathia. He’s trying to rebound from a career-worst year in which he went 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA, but he didn’t come anywhere close to doing so.
“I think you’re going to see a different CC,” Joe Girardi said before the game.
But it was more of the same from the 33-year-old lefthander, who was 1-2 with a 5.80 ERA in 10 previous Opening Day starts. He missed few barrels early, allowing four runs in the first inning and two in the second. Sabathia, who allowed two homers, did settle down with four consecutive scoreless innings, but a nonexistent offense against righthander Scott Feldman gave Sabathia no chance at a victory.
Sabathia, his much-discussed fastball velocity rarely hitting 90 mph, allowed six runs, eight hits, one walk and struck out six in six innings.
Jeter was hit with a pitch in his first at-bat and went 1-for-3, a single to rightfield in the eighth.
Feldman, 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA last season with the Cubs and Orioles, held the Yankees hitless until Carlos Beltran’s one-out single in the fourth.
He faced no threats until the seventh, when he loaded the bases with two outs, but lefthander Kevin Chapman retired Kelly Johnson on a dribbler to the mound.
Feldman allowed two hits and two walks and struck out three in 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Yankees got on the board in the eighth against the Astros’ bullpen. Feldman walked Jacoby Ellsbury and, after righty Chad Qualls came on, Jeter singled. RBI singles by Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, made it 6-2.
The night started with a potentially dark omen before Sabathia even took the mound. With one out in the first, Jeter, limited to 17 games last season because of a litany of injuries, took Feldman’s 88-mph fastball off his left forearm. Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue sprinted from the dugout to check on the 39-year-old, who grimaced but stayed in the game and appeared to have no further issues with the forearm.
In the bottom of the first, Sabathia fell behind leadoff man Dexter Fowler 2-and-0 before the centerfielder ripped an 89-mph fastball to the grassy incline in dead center for a leadoff double. Robbie Grossman sent a fly toward the line in right, where Beltran made the catch. Fowler seemed intent on tagging as soon as the ball was hit and he did just that, sliding into third as Beltran’s throw was off line.
Jose Altuve came next and sent a 1-and-2 pitch to left for an RBI single.
With Jason Castro in an 0-and-2 hole, Altuve took off for second. Sabathia’s throw dived into the dirt and past McCann, who threw wildly to third when Altuve headed there.
With the infield in, Castro hit a grounder to first, where Teixeira chose not to step on the bag for the easy out, instead deciding to throw home to try to get the speedy Altuve. Teixeira’s throw came in low and skittered to the backstop, although it looked as if Altuve would have been safe anyway.
The inning did not bottom out there. That occurred a batter later when Jesus Guzman tore into a first-pitch, 89-mph fastball and blasted it out to left-center, a two-run shot that made it 4-0.
The Astros tacked on two in the second. L.J. Hoes, the No. 8 hitter who hit one homer last season, led off by driving Sabathia’s 1-and-1 pitch well over the wall in left. Fowler doubled with one out and scored on Altuve’s two-out single, making it 6-0.
The Yankees did get two encouraging outings from the bullpen. Dellin Betances struck out two in a scoreless seventh. Vidal Nuno struck out the side, allowing a single, in a scoreless eighth.