NEW YORK (AP) — In a game Houston ace Dallas Keuchel started, the best toss home definitely belonged to Jake Marisnick.
A defensive replacement in left field, Marisnick made a perfect throw to nail Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate for the final out and the Astros held off the New York Yankees 3-2 on Thursday night.
A matchup between teams with the best records in baseball came down to the final play, and the Astros were better — barely.
“I kind of started celebrating a little early, and then I stopped and watched what was happening,” Marisnick said.
Ellsbury’s single with two outs in the ninth inning put runners at the corners, and the fleet leadoff hitter stole second. Gary Sanchez followed by grounding a sharp RBI single and Marisnick fired a strike on the fly to catcher Brian McCann to get the sliding Ellsbury.
“You have to take that shot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the right call.”
McCann pumped his fist after making the tag and Marisnick whooped it up with fellow outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. Marisnick came into the game in the seventh, taking over for Norichika Aoki.
“Right on the money,” McCann said. “I mean, couldn’t ask for a better throw. Right on the money.
“Jake puts a lot of pride in his defense, in his game, and he works on that all the time. You see him out there working on the days he doesn’t play,” he said.
Keuchel (6-0) became the first six-game winner in the majors, helped by a home run from Carlos Correa. The Astros won their fourth in a row and improved to 24-11 — their top mark after 35 games since the franchise began playing in 1962.
Ken Giles wound up with his 10th save in 11 tries, saved by Marisnick.
Marisnick tapped his glove a couple times as he charged, took an extra step to steady himself and let loose.
“I think the biggest thing there is not to rush it,” Marisnick said. “Just kind of take your time with it and slow things down.”
Carlos Beltran and McCann were quiet at the plate in their return to Yankee Stadium, the former New York power hitters going hitless in seven at-bats for Houston.
Michael Pineda (3-2) pitched into the seventh. He fell behind in the first when Correa lined a two-run drive over the wall in right-center, making the Astros star 6 for 9 with three homers against the right-hander.
Correa later singled and walked. After a slow start this season, he’s hitting .353 with four homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBIs in his last 17 games.
Keuchel kept up his resurgence, striking out nine in six innings. He earned the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, but dipped to 9-12 last season. Overall, he’s won eight straight dating to last August, matching a career high.
Keuchel once again throttled the Yankees, improving to 5-2 with a 1.24 ERA against them. Those totals include a win at Yankee Stadium in the 2015 AL wild-card game.
The 29-year-old lefty permitted just one run, and it was unearned. First baseman Yuli Gurriel dropped an easy toss for an error in the fifth and trailing 3-0, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out.
After Chris Carter struck out, Ellsbury reached base on catcher’s interference, tipping McCann’s glove. Ellsbury has a knack for this — he’s done it 28 times in his career, one behind the mark set by Pete Rose. Ellsbury set a record by doing it 12 times last season.
“It’s my fault. I played with him last year, and he had a ton of them. Bad on my part not scooting back,” McCann said.
But the next time Ellsbury hit McCann’s mitt, he wasn’t so fortunate.
“It’s a bang-bang play, and you tip your hat to Jake. He made an amazing throw to win the game for us,” McCann said.
Beltran and McCann both spent plenty of time exchanging hugs and handshakes with their former teammates during batting practice. Girardi spotted McCann behind the cage, noticed his facial hair — a no-no in New York — and greeted him with “What about that beard!”
Yankees: 1B Greg Bird (bruised ankle) was checked by a doctor and isn’t ready to begin baseball activities. He’s been on the DL since May 2.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers (2-1, 3.40 ERA) has struck out 50 in 42 1/3 innings this year. His dad, Lance, pitched for the Yankees in 1989-90.
Yankees: Rookie LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81) worked into the seventh inning to win at Wrigley Field last weekend.
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