NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran hit a three-run homer and Michael Pineda pitched six strong innings as the Yankees defeated the White Sox, 3-2, on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, continuing their push to lock up a postseason berth.
"I've been able to get good pitches and been able to put good swings on the balls," Beltran said. "My approach is not going up there trying to hit a homer. My approach is to try to put a good at-bat and put a quality at-bat [together], and thank God I've been doing that lately."
Pineda scattered eight hits and threw 89 pitches over six frames, picking up his 12th victory of the season. Trayce Thompson hit a sixth-inning homer, his fifth, off Pineda and worked a bases-loaded walk facing Dellin Betances in the seventh inning.
After Andrew Miller worked around a ninth-inning single for his 35th save, New York's Wild Card lead over the idle Astros increased to 4 1/2 games, increasing the likelihood of postseason baseball returning to the Bronx after two consecutive dark Octobers.
"I think it's really important so we can figure out where we're going to be, what we need to do, if somebody needs some rest," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Beltran stays hot: The 38-year-old is finishing his season on a strong note, now having hit safely in 40 of his last 47 games. His three-run shot off Sale in the third inning provided a lift for a club that stacked its lineup with right-handed bats against the tough lefty. New York was able to capitalize on the opportunity despite Jacoby Ellsbury being called out on interference, having collided with shortstop Alexei Ramirez as he pursued a Chase Headley popup.
"I feel good at the plate," Beltran said. "I feel like I'm seeing the ball well, I feel like I'm recognizing the pitches. Off Sale, I can say I feel like I was seeing the ball well."
Reaching a milestone: By striking out Chris Young swinging in the third, Sale recorded his fourth strikeout of the night and No. 1,000 for his career. With eight strikeouts in seven innings, Sale sits just three away from breaking the franchise single-season record of 269 set by Ed Walsh in 1908. He also topped the 200-innings mark, moving to 201 2/3 for the season.
"I still have one or two more starts left," Sale said. "The focus goes to that, and these things we'll talk about or kick around in the offseason." More >
Pineda goes six: Pineda has not exceeded six innings in six starts following his disabled list assignment for a right forearm strain, but he was economical in this one, throwing 70 of his 89 pitches for strikes. Pineda pitched out of trouble in the third inning by fanning Thompson and got help from Headley's terrific defensive play in the fifth, stealing a hit from Jose Abreu. He permitted eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
"Probably the best thing he did is he pitched out of some jams -- the second, the third, the fifth," Girardi said. "He just seemed to take it up another level, and he made some really good pitches."
If at first you don't succeed … : Thompson had a chance to give the White Sox an early lead, but he struck out with the bases loaded to end the third. Thompson did not miss on a Pineda offering leading off the sixth, clubbing his fifth home run of the season. Statcast™ projected Thompson's homer to leave the bat at 109 mph and travel 397 feet from home plate. Thompson walked to force in a run with two outs in the seventh, taking close pitches at 1-2 and 2-2 from Betances.
"He's had some great at-bats," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Thompson. "I thought the Betances at-bat was outstanding, bases loaded. I don't know too many people that end up walking in that situation. He had a great at-bat, great eye, just patient waiting it out. We couldn't punch it across after that. I thought with Trayce, the homer and still patient enough to have that at-bat, too, [was impressive]."
"You talk about a professional hitter, a guy who is year in and year out one of the best in the game. He just continues to be great." -- Sale, on Beltran
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• When Alex Rodriguez scored on Beltran's home run, it marked the 2,000th run scored of Rodriguez's career, making him just the eighth player in history to reach that plateau. Rodriguez joined Hank Aaron as the only players with at least 3,000 hits, 2,000 RBIs and 2,000 runs scored. More >
• Ellsbury recorded his 300th career stolen base in the third inning. He is one of nine active Major Leaguers with 300 or more steals.
AN UNLIKELY OCCURRENCE
The White Sox have lost the last six starts made by Sale. He has three quality starts among those six.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox:Carlos Rodon (8-6, 3.78 ERA) makes his Yankee Stadium debut as part of his 23rd start and 26th appearance this season Friday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Rodon is 4-2 with a 1.66 ERA over his last seven starts and has limited opponents to a .193 average during that stretch.
Yankees:CC Sabathia (5-9, 4.80 ERA) will try to continue a solid run on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET, when he takes on the White Sox. Wearing a protective brace on his right knee, the big lefty is 2-1 with a 1.04 ERA since returning from the disabled list earlier this month, limiting opponents to a .190 average with 18 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings.