Yankees starter Ivan Nova struggled to keep the Astros off base, issuing five walks and six hits and hitting two batters in 5 2/3 innings, but he was bailed out time and again by double plays, including three that ended innings.
"We had our chances, especially early," manager Bo Porter said. "We had baserunners everywhere. We were probably one big hit away from kind of getting some separation early in the game, but give the New York Yankees credit. They fought and found a way to get out of here with a win."
The Astros, who lost a club-record 111 games in 2013, were content to open the season by winning a series against the Yankees heading into a four-game set against the Angels beginning Friday at Minute Maid Park.
"You go into every series and you want to win the series," Porter said. "We were in position to get all three games, but you give the New York Yankees credit. They came out and fought hard, and they were able to get the win. We move on to the next series, and our goal will always be the same -- it's to win every series."
Winning the series was fine, but the Astros could have swept had they come up with a few clutch hits and made more plays on defense.
The Astros gift-wrapped a run for the Yankees in the seventh, when a two-out popup between home plate and the pitcher's mound dropped, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to score from second to make it 4-2. Catcher Carlos Corporan was under the ball before looking toward pitcher Brad Peacock and third baseman Matt Dominguez to his left as the ball fell.
"I went after it because I didn't want that thing to fall on the ground," Corporan said. "I saw the pitcher and saw Matty, and I kind of was in the middle of everybody. I should have caught it and [taken] charge of the ball. Things happen."
Porter said that the pitcher should have caught the ball, because it wasn't hit especially high.
"That's an in-between play, where obviously the pitcher is thinking the third baseman is going to come and get it or the catcher is going to make it out there, but I don't think there was enough air underneath that ball for either one of those guys to get there," Porter said.
Corporan had entered the game in the sixth inning after starting catcher Jason Castro was forced to leave after suffering a contusion on his right foot when he was hit by a pitch in the third. He was in a walking boot after the game, but said he'll be fine.
Starter Brett Oberholtzer came within one out of a quality start, allowing three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings in his first outing of the season. He ran the scoreless streak by Astros starters to 13 2/3 innings before the Yankees scored twice in the third to take their first lead of the season, 2-1.
As had been the case in the first two games, center fielder Dexter Fowler sparked the Astros in the first inning. He led off with a single, went to third on a single by Robbie Grossman and scored when Jose Altuve narrowly beat out a double-play ball at first base.
The Astros proceeded to load the bases, but Marc Krauss hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Chris Carter ended the third with a 6-4-3 double play, and Alex Presley grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the fourth.
"We lose by two, and we could have had a couple more [runs] earlier on," Krauss said. "It's never good to leave runs out there no matter who you're playing. It's frustrating, but it's going to happen. We'll learn from it and move forward."
The importance of the double plays wasn't lost on Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
"Those were big," Girardi said. "Those kept them from blowing the game open."
Derek Jeter, playing his final game in Houston, gave the Yankees a two-run lead with an RBI single in the fifth on a play in which Presley's relay throw from right field was cut off by Krauss in the infield, even though there appeared to be a chance for a play at the plate. Krauss was able to get Jeter out running to second, which Porter said was the right play.
"Whenever you get an opportunity to kill an inning or take an out when the offensive team has put the ball in play successfully, that's your advantage," Porter said.
Houston got within a run, 3-2, in the fifth when Jonathan Villar hit a leadoff double to left and scored on Fowler's second single. Grossman followed with a walk, but Castro hit into a 4-6-3 double play and soon left the game.
"Nova is primarily a sinkerballer, and he did a good job of getting it down in the zone. A few of us weren't able to get the ball in the air when we could have to have better chances to put runs across the board," Krauss said. "You tip your cap. He hit his spots when he needed to and kept us in check."