HOUSTON -- The Yankees somehow found a way to get the best of nemesis Dallas Keuchel on a night he had some of his best stuff of the season.
Chase Headley and Austin Romine each had RBI hits to back seven strong innings from starter Michael Pineda to lead the Yankees to a 2-1 win over Keuchel and the Astros in the series opener Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
"We had a feeling it was going to be a low-scoring game," Headley said. "Mikey was outstanding. Credit to him. The pitching staff has been great lately and that's a big reason why we're playing a lot better."
George Springer clubbed a homer on Pineda's first pitch of the game, and Keuchel sent down 13 of the first 14 batters he faced before Didi Gregorius doubled with two outs in the fifth and scored on Headley's bloop single. Headley led off the eighth with a single and scored on a double by Austin Romine to put the Yankees ahead, 2-1. The Yankees improved to 51-48 with the victory, reaching three games over .500 for the first time this season.
Keuchel (6-10) took the loss despite giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings in his seventh consecutive quality start, during which he has a 2.71 ERA in that span. He has a 1.41 career ERA in six starts (regular season and postseason) against New York.
"I felt like today was the first time, even through this whole [winning] stretch that I've really been able to command both sides of the plate -- fastball, both sides," Keuchel said. "The only thing lacking was a few sliders to Romine. Credit him for taking advantage of those, but I felt really good. That's a good sign. Hopefully that only means good things for me going forward."
Houston caught a break in the ninth inning as second baseman Starlin Castro didn't make contact with the bag on a potential forceout, but Andrew Miller induced a game-ending double play to record his eighth save in 10 chances. The Yankees improved to 51-48, reaching three games over .500 for the first time this season.
"We're a pretty focused bunch on winning right now," Miller said. "I think maybe it's good that there's no let-up, there's no feeling in here that it's time to move on or give up in this year because that's certainly not tonight. Hopefully we showed that with our fight tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Austin 'powers' one: Romine has showcased a much-improved bat all year long, saying that he feels the game has finally slowed down for him and cementing his role as the Yanks' backup catcher. The 27-year-old delivered in a big spot against Keuchel, as Romine's eighth-inning blast to deep center hopped against the wall. Carlos Gomez fielded it on Tal's Hill as Headley scored the go-ahead run from first base.
"[Keuchel] was doing a lot on both sides of the plate, with two-seamers away and down, sliders down and in," Romine said. "He got me earlier on a cutter. Honestly, you just battle off that kind of guy. I was looking for a pitch up in the zone and he made a mistake late in the count on a slider up. I was able to get the head on it."
No help for the Beard: For the second game in a row, Keuchel pitched a great game that wasn't enough for a win. This time, Keuchel went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only two runs and striking out five, but allowing back-to-back hits in the fifth and eighth innings proved to be his downfall. Keuchel entered Monday with the ninth-lowest run support average (3.92) among qualifying AL pitchers, and it wasn't any better Monday night as Springer's leadoff solo shot was the Astros' only run of the day. More >
"Keuchel was pretty good," Hinch said. "Early they hit him hard and we made some defensive plays behind him, and I thought he settled in. His best inning was probably in the seventh when he punched out the side after the leadoff double. I thought the finish on his pitches were good, I thought the command of his pitches were good. ... All in all, Dallas is pitching very well with his stuff working in every direction."
Big Mike bears down: The game was very much on the line in the sixth inning for Pineda, as he permitted an infield hit to Jose Altuve, walked Carlos Correa and then issued a four-pitch free pass to Luis Valbuena. That loaded the bases for Bregman, seeking his first Major League hit, and the promising rookie gave it a ride to deep right field -- just steps shy of the wall for Aaron Hicks, who nonchalantly put it away for the third out of the inning.
"I'm watching a little bit; he got it good," Pineda said. "I'm happy we got the out. [I was] a little worried because a grand slam, that kills my game."
Welcome to the bigs: It certainly wasn't a perfect debut for highly anticipated Astros rookie Alex Bregman, who went 0-for-4 at the plate and narrowly missed on what would've been a two-out, go-ahead grand slam in the sixth. That said, the third baseman showed flashes, especially on defense, that should excite the Astros going forward. Bregman made a number of highlight-reel worthy assists in his first four innings on defense, including a backhanded snag off Mark Teixeira's chopper in the top of the second. More >
"It felt better than I thought it would feel," Bregman said of his debut. "It felt amazing. It's the most fun I've ever had."
"Very quality athlete," Keuchel said of Bregman. "I didn't expect anything less. There was all the hoopla for him, but he's gonna be a quality Major Leaguer for years to come and whether it's at third base or left field, I think he's going to contribute on a daily basis."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Springer's solo shot to lead off the bottom of the first was the Astros' 11th leadoff home run this season, which is a club record. Springer has hit five, while the other six are from All-Star second baseman Altuve.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN RECORD
With his RBI single in the top of the fifth inning, Headley passed Roy Hartzell for the most career hits (1,148) by a Colorado-born player in Major League history. The 32-year-old veteran has 75 hits on the year.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: Left-hander CC Sabathia (5-8, 4.04 ERA) will try to snap a six-start winless streak on Tuesday at 8:10 p.m. ET as the Yankees play the second game of a three-game set in Houston. Sabathia took the loss on his 36th birthday last time out and has permitted 29 earned runs over his last 35 innings (7.45 ERA).
Astros: Right-hander Doug Fister will take the mound for the Astros in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. CT game against the Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Fister (10-6, 3.42 ERA) has allowed three runs or less in 16 of his last 19 starts.