Astros seek to salvage split vs. Yankees

HOUSTON — Houston closer Ken Giles has long showcased volatility in his performances, with his outings over the first two games of the Astros‘ series with the New York Yankees a microcosm of that fact.

After tearing through the heart of the Yankees’ order to preserve a 2-1 victory Monday night, Giles surrendered four runs while recording only one out the following evening, the biggest blow coming off the bat of New York catcher Gary Sanchez — a three-run homer to center field.

Giles had worked eight consecutive scoreless appearances, including seven without allowing a baserunner. After his implosion, television cameras caught Giles punching himself in the face as he stormed to the dugout, where his tantrum continued and revealed a pitcher coming undone.

“It’s a tough look for someone coming out of competition like that,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I understand the frustration; I understand how much these guys put into it. But in an ideal world you can handle it a little bit more calmly without the violence.

“I think there’s a difference between letting them be themselves and letting them tear themselves down. That doesn’t necessarily have to be physical like the video (Tuesday) night. That’s one aspect of it; I think you can emotionally tear yourself down too. Everybody responds to success and failure differently. You don’t want it to be counterproductive. You want it to be channeled in the right area and used in the right way and ultimately maximize their potential and their performance by being constructive and not destructive.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers (4-1, 3.71 ERA) will start Thursday’s series finale for the Astros (20-12). McCullers has logged at least six innings in each of his last three starts, allowing two runs over 20 innings with 21 strikeouts against two walks during that stretch. He is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over three career starts against the Yankees, including 1-0, 2.38 in two turns last season.

McCullers allowed one run on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts over six innings but did not factor in the decision in Game 4 of the 2017 American League Championship Series. He earned the save in Game 7 with four shutout innings of relief.

New York will look to win the series with right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37) on the mound. He is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA over four career starts against the Astros, 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid Park. Tanaka went 1-1 against Houston in the ALCS, allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts over 13 innings in Games 1 and 5.

Before posting their second consecutive 4-0 win over the Astros on Wednesday night, the Yankees (20-10) placed left-hander Jordan Montgomery on the 10-day disabled list with a left elbow flexor strain. Montgomery departed after one inning Tuesday with elbow tightness, and a subsequent MRI exam in New York revealed an injury that will sideline him up to eight weeks.

Rookie right-hander Domingo German, who logged four shutout innings in a pinch after Montgomery departed, will get a shot to fill the rotation void Sunday against the Indians.

“He doesn’t flinch. He just keeps making pitches,” New York manager Aaron Boone said of German. “He’s got weapons to get righties and lefties out. He’s been a weapon down there.

“He’s fairly stretched out; not like he was to start the season, but I feel fairly comfortable that he could give us a fair amount of length.”