The Astros roughed up Andy Pettitte for seven runs in Monday's series-opening 9-1 win at Yankee Stadium, snapping New York's four-game winning streak. Can Houston expect more of the same on Tuesday against another Yankees starter who's been dealing early this season?
Hiroki Kuroda has been nearly untouchable in the four starts since he left his season debut early due to an injury, going 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA. The right-hander is one victory shy of a career-best winning streak, which he'll look to lock up as he takes the mound on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium to face the Astros and fellow righty Philip Humber.
Kuroda proved in his last outing that he's capable of picking up a win even without his best stuff. He allowed three early runs to the Blue Jays on Thursday but managed to pitch six innings despite having no feel for his sinker or slider.
"All I thought was, 'Just hang in there, pitch by pitch, and [you'll] be able to overcome,'" Kuroda said on Thursday through an interpreter. "Considering how it started, I think I was able to put together a decent outing."
Kuroda has had plenty of decent outings in his career against the Astros. He owns a 3-0 record and a 1.61 ERA in 44 2/3 innings over seven starts against them.
While Kuroda is riding a hot streak into Tuesday's game, Humber has found himself in a funk. He posted a 2.89 ERA in his first three starts -- all losses because the Astros didn't provide him with sufficient run support -- before going 0-2 with a 27.00 ERA in his last two starts.
Humber has allowed 18 hits and 15 earned runs in five innings over those two outings, including Thursday's loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. After that outing, he said he didn't know what was wrong but called it "pathetic" and admitted to "definitely not doing my job right now."
Astros catcher Jason Castro said the team has been trying to get all of its starters to be more aggressive early in counts, which could help Humber as he prepares to make his third career start against the Yankees.
"Throw it at the hitter, making them hit the ball and not giving guys free passes, and really challenging guys and making them earn whatever it is they're going to do on offense," Castro said. "I feel like the starters have come a long way, going out every day and giving it everything they have when they start, no matter how far into the game they go."
While it might not be much consolation given his recent struggles, Humber has had some previous success at Yankee Stadium. In his only career start there -- on April 25, 2011 -- Humber allowed only one hit over seven scoreless innings.
Astros: Peacock headed to bullpen
• Brad Peacock was told on Monday that he's being moved from the starting rotation to Houston's bullpen, a response to the right-hander's rough start to the season. Peacock went 1-3 with an 8.44 ERA in 21 1/3 innings over five starts.
"It more so has to do with us as an organization trying to put him in position where he could have some success," manager Bo Porter said. "We believe that he's still a starting pitcher, and you guys have witnessed it. We've had starters go down in the bullpen and pitch in long relief and they've had great success, and we're hoping the same thing can happen with Brad Peacock."
The Astros will announce a starter for Thursday's game against the Tigers at a later date. Porter wouldn't specify if the start will go to one of the club's long relievers -- Travis Blackley, Paul Clemens or Jose Ciserno -- or a callup from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Yankees: Youkilis placed on DL
• The MRI exam taken on Kevin Youkilis' stiff lower back were negative, but the veteran infielder isn't ready to return just yet. He was scheduled to have an epidural injection on Tuesday, and the Yankees placed him on the disabled list. Youkilis played on Saturday but woke up Sunday feeling more discomfort in his back. Manager Joe Girardi said he didn't have any second thoughts about playing Youkilis on Saturday, even though that decision took away New York's ability to backdate his injury to the series in Toronto during which Youkilis first sat.
"None whatsoever -- the player told us he was ready to go, and we put him in," Girardi said. "How did it happen? I can't tell you how he reinjured it. Could it have just been from normal use or a play? That could happen any time. I have no second thoughts."
The Yankees called up Corban Joseph from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he was batting .273 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 22 games. A fourth-round selection by the Yankees in the 2008 Draft, the 24-year-old Joseph has played mostly second base in the Minors and will be making his Major League debut.
• One bright spot from Monday night's blowout loss: Lefty Vidal Nuno made his Major League debut and pitched three shutout innings, scattering four hits and striking out two.
• The Astros have hit 26 home runs this month, compared to just 14 in April 2012. This year's total was boosted by an eight-game homer streak from April 16-24, the club's longest such streak since June 16-20, 2009.
• The Yankees have gone 9-1 this season in games decided by two or fewer runs, and they're 4-0 in one-run games, standing as the last team in the Majors not to lose a one-run game this year.