Friday night, during both the eighth and ninth innings, it seemed as if the Yankees would be celebrating a comeback win over the Astros for the second straight night.
The ultimate problem in those innings, however, was the same as the first seven: Even as they put two men on in each of the eight and ninth innings, the Yankees failed to bring any of those runners home. And when D.J. LeMahieu ended the Yankees’ 3-1 loss with a groundout, extinguishing their ninth-inning rally, those failures caught up to them and their 15-game home winning streak was snapped.
It was the first time in more than a week that the Yankees failed to score at least two runs in a game; their only run Friday came on Giancarlo Stanton’s sixth-inning home run. In the eighth, when the Yankees managed to put two runners on, Stanton was one of three hitters to strike out against Phil Maton — Aaron Judge and Josh Donaldson were the other two.
“I need to have a better at-bat in the eighth there,” Stanton said afterward. “Give us a better chance to win.”
The same mantra could have applied to much of the rest of the lineup.
Despite coming into the night with a red-hot offense, the Yankees’ bats finally met their match in familiar foe Justin Verlander, who pitched seven innings of four-hit ball to carry Houston to the win. The Yankees did not get a runner to third base all night. Though they managed to keep the game close thanks to Luis Severino’s own strong outing, the lack of offense proved to be their undoing.
“I thought we had the right at-bats against [Verlander],” manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought we had a lot of real good swings on him where we just missed a ball or fouled a pitch off. But part of that is he moves the ball around and has a real good idea of what he’s doing.”
Once the Yankees were facing the bullpen, they at least managed to put runners on base, but when it mattered, they still failed to come up with the sort of timely hit that has so often defined this season.
Verlander picked up his league-leading ninth victory of the season, continuing to defy age at 39 years old. The Yankees, for their part, likely will move on from quickly — a luxury they have because the defeat Friday was just their 19th loss of the season thus far.