NEW YORK – Booed and banged up during a frustrating season, Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton muscled his way to a breakthrough performance Saturday night.
A couple inches the other way, it might’ve been the Houston Astros’ turn to exhale.
Stanton hit a pair of go-ahead, two-run singles — both off third baseman Yuli Gurriel’s glove — and New York beat Houston 7-5 for its eighth straight win. The Astros lost their seventh in a row in the matchup of AL division leaders.
Stanton made it 4-2 in the sixth inning with a 104 mph (167.3 kph) grounder that skipped off Gurriel’s mitt and into shallow left field — ruled a hit on a tough call for the official scorer. Stanton smashed an almost identical ball an inning later — clocked at 107 mph (172 kph) — which Gurriel dived for and tipped. That one got past him, too, this time for an undisputed single against Ryan Pressly (1-1) for a 7-5 lead.
“It’s great to be able to contribute to a win finally,” Stanton said.
Stanton got his first four RBIs of the season. He’s only played seven games, missing 2½ months due to biceps, shoulder and calf injuries. Some fans at Yankee Stadium have booed the 2017 NL MVP as he’s struggled to get up to speed.
“You have to give the guy a break,” teammate Luke Voit said, adding “just getting those reps in. He won MVP for a reason. It’s nice having an MVP hit behind you.”
“Sometimes we forget what a good player he is,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Hope they saw those at-bats.”
Starter Masahiro Tanaka, who is 5-5 this season, allowed eight hits and a walk while striking out one at Yankee Stadium in his sixth no-decision of the year. His pitching line, however, was not as impressive as the quality of plays behind him, as Yankees fielders kept the game from getting out of hand by routinely robbing the Astros of hits.
“To be honest, I didn’t pitch well. I’m just surprised at how I was able to hold on,” said Tanaka, who threw a two-hit shutout on Monday.
“I think the only reason we finished with this result (the win) was because of good defense behind me.”
Tanaka blew Yankees’ 2-0 lead in the sixth on a line drive single and a two-run home run to Josh Reddick.
New York pitcher Jonathan Holder was credited with the win despite allowing three runs during an inning of relief.
Zack Britton let Houston load the bases in the ninth but got Tyler White to flyout to right for his third save.
New York’s winning streak includes three victories each against Tampa Bay and Houston, a pair of AL postseason hopefuls. The Yankees will try for a four-game sweep of Houston on Sunday.
The Astros stranded 11 and have left 32 on base over the past three games. Houston’s skid is its longest since dropping seven straight in 2015.
“It’s tough when you lose a lead given the week we’ve had,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’re all human, we’re all pretty frustrated.”
Cardinals 4, Angels 2
In St. Louis, Los Angeles’ Albert Pujols took a curtain call for his adoring fans at Busch Stadium after homering against the Cardinals, but Marcell Ozuna connected to lead Dakota Hudson and St. Louis to the win.
Pujols hit his 13th home run, a solo drive in the seventh inning. He got a standing ovation as he rounded the bases and the cheers grew louder until Pujols emerged from the dugout and tipped his hat to the sellout crowd.
Shohei Ohtani appeared as a pinch hitter for the Angels and was 0-for-1.
In Other Games
Dodgers 5, Rockies 4 (11)
Braves 13, Nationals 9
Mets 10, Cubs 2
Marlins 5, Phillies 3
Pirates 6, Padres 3
Brewers 6, Reds 5
Giants 7, Diamondbacks 4
Twins 5, Royals 3
Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7
Athletics 4, Rays 2
Orioles 8, Mariners 3
Indians 2, Tigers 0
Rangers 6, White Sox 5
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5