HOUSTON (AP)—Little by little, Joba Chamberlain is getting more comfortable as a starting pitcher.
Derek Jeter hit a solo homer in the eighth inning off Doug Brocail and Chamberlain pitched six strong innings in his first career road start to lead the New York Yankees to a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.
Alex Rodriguez added an RBI single for the Yankees in their first regular-season game at Minute Maid Park.
Chamberlain allowed six hits and struck out two in his third career start, keeping the Yankees in the game as the offense struggled against Astros starter Shawn Chacon. The Yankees moved Chamberlain out of the bullpen in late May and he’s feeling more confident with the transition with each outing.
“Every time you go out, I try to get better and learn from it,” Chamberlain said. “I have to continue to get better and try to build off this and do better the next time.”
Chamberlain threw 62 pitches in his first start, against Toronto on June 3, and left after giving up a hit with four walks and two runs in 2 1-3 innings. He lasted 4 1-3 innings against Kansas City on Sunday, allowing three runs on five hits in 78 pitches.
Chamberlain threw 88 pitches on Friday night. He said his changeup was working well against the Astros and manager Joe Girardi liked the splitfinger fastball he saw, too.
“That’s why we projected him as a starter,” Girardi said. “He’s not a one- or two-pitch guy. He’s a four-pitch guy with a power arm.”
Chacon, who played for the Yankees in 2005 and ’06, gave up three hits and struck out two in 6 1-3 innings.
Brocail (2-1) started the eighth in relief of Wesley Wright and Jeter drove the second pitch he saw into the right-field seats, his fourth homer of the season and first since June 1.
Jose Veras (1-0) retired the Astros in order in the seventh and eighth, and Kyle Farnsworth pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his first save. Mariano Rivera had saved New York’s last 10 road victories, but manager Joe Girardi said he rested him after Rivera pitched for the fifth time in six days in Oakland on Thursday.
Ty Wigginton had an RBI single for the Astros, who’ve lost seven of nine.
The Yankees have won seven of 10 and moved two games over .500 (35-33) for the first time since April 24.
Bobby Abreu scored New York’s first run in the first inning on Rodriguez’s single to center.
Abreu reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and went to third when the throw by Astros catcher Brad Ausmus sailed into center field. It was Ausmus’ first error of the season.
Chamberlain allowed two harmless singles through the first three innings. The only time he looked shaky was when he struck out swinging in his first major league at-bat, facing Chacon in the third.
Wigginton singled and Lee was able to score when Hideki Matsui bobbled the ball in left field. Matsui, usually the Yankees’ designated hitter, started in left with pitchers required to bat in the NL park.
Chacon, meanwhile, retired 14 of 17 hitters between the second and sixth innings, giving up only two walks and a single by Jorge Posada. He fought through cramps in his left hamstring that started in the third inning.
“It was so hot,” Chacon said. “I was just drenched in sweat.”
Michael Bourn led off the Houston sixth with a single to right. The speedy Bourn stole second on Chamberlain’s first pitch to Ausmus. Bourn tried to take third on a 2-1 pitch, but Posada threw him out.
Houston tied a season high with four stolen bases and set a team record by getting caught stealing four times. Cooper said the Astros tried to take advantage of Chamberlain’s deliberate motion.
“We just knew the guy on the other side was a little slow to the plate,” Cooper said. “We don’t get that many chances.”
Matsui led off the seventh with a single and Posada walked on Chacon’s 106th pitch. Houston manager Cecil Cooper brought in Wright to relieve, and Wilson Betemit, pinch-hitting for Chamberlain, flew out to end the inning.
Girardi said he would’ve kept Chamberlain in for one more inning if his spot in the batting order hadn’t come up.
“He’s been throwing the ball great for us all year,” Girardi said. “He’s using all his pitches. We’re happy with the way he’s throwing the ball.”
Brocail had not allowed a run in 10 appearances before Jeter’s homer. The Astros’ pitching staff has allowed 97 homers, the most in the majors.
“I needed to slam the door and I didn’t do it,” Brocail said. “I threw a curveball and I didn’t get it down and he pounded the hell out of it.”
Jeter leads the majors with 259 career hits in interleague play.
Chacon got a no-decision for the 10th time in 14 starts this season. He started the season with nine consecutive no-decisions, setting a major league record. … The Astros lead the NL with 72 steals, seven more than they had all of last season. … Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threw out the first pitch. A die-hard Yankees fan, Giuliani had a front-row seat near Astros owner Drayton McLane.