NEW YORK — In a new spot at the top of the lineup, Aaron Judge came up empty during his first game back from injury.
The rest of the New York Yankees kept rolling right along with their same old power show.
Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres each homered for the third game in a row, providing a pair of two-run shots that sent New York past the skidding Houston Astros 4-1 Friday night for their seventh straight victory.
Judge was hitless in his return — batting leadoff for the first time — but the Yankees matched their longest winning streak of the year. Sanchez and Torres became the first set of teammates in franchise history to homer in three consecutive games together, according to the YES Network.
"That’s incredible, especially against the pitching we’ve been facing," Judge said. "Two impressive hitters."
Houston wasted a strong start from Brad Peacock (6-5) and has dropped six in a row for the first time since July 2015.
"We haven’t played from ahead enough in the last week, and certainly when you make your fair share of mistakes, either in or out of the boxscore, it’s tough to win here," manager AJ Hinch said.
James Paxton (5-3) went five-plus innings before handing a slim lead to a shutdown bullpen that delivered again for New York.
Adam Ottavino entered after a leadoff double in the sixth and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings with two strikeouts. Zack Britton walked two in the eighth but escaped when Torres started a slick double play with a glove flip from second base to end the inning.
"I don’t practice that. I think it’s just in the moment," he said.
Aroldis Chapman got three outs for his 21st save in 23 attempts. He fanned Yordan Alvarez looking with two aboard to end it.
Edwin Encarnacion also made some fine plays for the AL East leaders at first base.
"For a bat-first guy, he played really good defence and then they wiped out some of our opportunities," Hinch said.
In the third, Sanchez launched a 481-foot shot deep into the elevated bleachers above and beyond the bullpen in left-centre. New York has homered in 24 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors over the past three seasons and one short of the club record set in 1941.
Sanchez also connected in three straight games May 20-22.
Brett Gardner doubled off reliever Hector Rondon in the seventh and Torres sent an opposite-field drive just over a leaping Josh Reddick at the auxiliary scoreboard in right-centre.
"My goodness. When I was 22, I was playing in low-A Charleston. He’s up here facing the best of the best and exceeding all expectations," Judge said about Torres. "He’s the star of this team, future of this team and exciting to watch."
The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game since straining his left oblique on a swing April 20. He batted leadoff for the first time in his big league career.
"I loved it. More at-bats. That’s the best part about it," Judge said. "It’s a good little spot. Hope it was not my last time doing it."
Jose Altuve had three infield singles and a walk for the Astros, who still have a comfortable cushion in the AL West. Peacock struck out 11 and walked none over six innings in his first start against the Yankees. He gave up five hits.
Houston scored on successive doubles by Tyler White and Jake Marisnick in the fourth.
BIG HIT NEEDED
Houston went 1 for 13 with eight strikeouts with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 in all. During the losing streak, the Astros are batting .136 (6 for 44) with RISP.
"It keeps carrying over and carrying over. We’ll get out of it," Reddick said. "Just a matter of bad luck and not getting the job done."
Astros: Backup catcher Max Stassi (left knee soreness) was reinstated from the 10-day injured list and LHP Reymin Guduan was recalled from Triple-A Round Rock. To make roster room, catcher Garrett Stubbs and INF Jack Mayfield were optioned to Round Rock after Thursday night’s game. … OF George Springer (strained left hamstring) took a scheduled day off on his rehab assignment at Double-A Corpus Christi. He’s slated to play Saturday and Sunday — one game in the outfield, the other at DH. If all goes well, he’s likely to be activated Tuesday. … RHP Collin McHugh (elbow) and RHP Joe Smith (left Achilles tendon surgery) appeared in relief for Corpus Christi. McHugh got two outs and needs to pitch on successive days in the minors before rejoining the Astros, according to Hinch. Smith struck out the side in his first rehab outing after being sidelined all season.
Yankees: CF Aaron Hicks was out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game because of inflammation in his sore right shoulder. He received a cortisone shot Thursday and took pregame batting practice Friday with teammates on the field. Hicks, however, entered on defence in the fourth when LF Cameron Maybin exited with a strained left calf. Maybin was scheduled for an MRI and is headed to the injured list. "It’ll be a while," manager Aaron Boone said. Maybin appeared to get hurt diving back to first on a pickoff attempt. … RHP Domingo German (left hip flexor strain) threw a bullpen and is scheduled for another one Monday. He’ll likely need a rehab outing but could rejoin the big league rotation before the All-Star break. … Regular leadoff man DJ LeMahieu and 1B Luke Voit were rested.
Astros LHP Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) starts Saturday night against RHP Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23), who is coming off a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts Monday in a 3-0 win over Tampa Bay, his fourth major league shutout. Tanaka is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in six starts versus Houston.