Mark Teixeira was shaping up as an MVP candidate last year for the Yankees before a fracture suffered while fouling a ball off his right shin ended his season on Aug. 17, weakening the team’s lineup in September and for its wild card loss to Houston.
Health has long been a concern for the first baseman during his Yankee tenure, but he showed once again on Thursday the kind of impact he can have as long as he can stay on the field.
Teixeira broke a seventh-inning deadlock by lining a go-ahead, opposite-field, three-run homer just over the Canon sign in left field off a 98-mph Ken Giles fastball to lift the Yankees to an 8-5 win over the Astros.
Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez waits for Mark Teixeira after his big three-run home run helps beat the Astros on Thursday in the Bronx.
“I can’t say enough about Mark Teixeira,” said Alex Rodriguez, who went 2-for-4 with a tying RBI single in the fifth and likened the impact of the switch-hitting Teixeira to that of Bernie Williams in the ’90s. “He’s just been unbelievable. It was remarkable how much we missed him when he went down last year.”
Back-to-back singles by Brett Gardner and Rodriguez set the table for Teixeira to break the 5-5 tie with his 193rd homer as a Yankee, passing Tino Martinez for sole possession of 17th place on the team’s all-time home runs list. He had a check-swing single down the third-base line in the second inning to beat a sharp shift, and scored on a Chase Headley sacrifice fly.
Starlin Castro continues his hot streak with another home run.
The first baseman, who turns 36 on Monday and finished 2-for-4 with a homer for the second straight day, has had a history of various ailments, but has downplayed last season’s injury, seeming uninterested in discussing it. He also reiterated his desire from spring training to remain with the Yankees (2-1) after his contract runs out at the end of this season.
“I think you guys are putting way too much on a freak injury that happened last year,” said Teixeira, who had 31 homers in 111 games last season. “They happen to players all over the place. I feel great. I feel like I’m gonna play another five or six seasons, and this is just the start of the season. It doesn’t mean anything more or less. It’s all about winning games.”
Teixeira goes deep into the seventh inning.
Prospect Greg Bird seemed poised to take over first base next year, but with him scheduled to miss the entire 2016 season because of surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder, it doesn’t seem far-fetched for the Yankees to bring Teixeira back if he were to have another big season.
“The Yankees is the whole package,” Teixeira said. “Once you play for the Yankees, you kind of reach the pinnacle of Major League Baseball. It’s just tough to see myself in another uniform.”
Nathan Eovaldi isn’t super impressive in his season debut.
New second baseman Starlin Castro, acquired in an offseason trade with the Cubs, continued his torrid start in pinstripes, going 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the fourth to cut the deficit to 5-4 as Nathan Eovaldi struggled, allowing five runs on six hits (two second-inning homers) in five innings while striking out seven. Castro, who homered for the second straight day, is 7-for-12 with eight RBI over his first three games. The 26-year-old is two hits shy of 1,000 for his career.
“We were talking about it in the bullpen. It’s pretty impressive what he’s done, especially coming to a new team,” said Dellin Betances, who pitched a perfect eighth following his Tuesday throwing blunder before Andrew Miller earned the save in the ninth. “Just turned 26. He’s nearing 1,000 hits. He’s done a phenomenal job and now has guys like A-Rod and (Carlos) Beltran he can talk to and lean on, where with the Cubs, he was the guy at a young age. As soon as we acquired him this offseason, I knew he’d help the team.”
Jacoby Ellsbury went 2-for-5 with an RBI double in the third, which cut the Astros’ lead to 3-1. Brian McCann, who received his Silver Slugger award before the game, homered to lead off the fourth.