HOUSTON (AP)—Mike Mussina never expected a run like this.
“No one ever sees a stretch like this,” he said. “I don’t even know what it is. You don’t run ‘em off like that very often, so you never see that kind of stuff coming … the last 10 or 11 starts, I’ve pretty much been doing what I’ve wanted to do. I can’t ask for much more than what’s happened.”
The Yankees won for the eighth time in 11 games and secured their first back-to-back road series wins for the first time this season.
Mussina (10-4) allowed three runs and six hits to reach 10 wins for the 17th straight season, extending his American League record. It’s the third time in his career and the first time since 2003 he’s done it within 15 starts.
“I’m not necessarily different,” he said. “I’m not taller or throwing left-handed. I’m just making good pitches and mixing it up, whether it’s pitching backwards, or not pitching backwards, or whatever it takes, any way I can get ‘em out. Right now, it’s working.”
Mussina got off to a rocky start in his 260th victory, allowing a double and a single in the first inning before Carlos Lee’s three-run homer. The 39-year-old got on track after that, retiring seven of the next eight batters before a single by Lee with one out in the fourth.
He wouldn’t allow another hit until a double by Miguel Tejada with one out in the sixth, but he retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
“He’s just reeled off win after win and good start after good start—seven innings, six innings, eight innings,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s just been really, really good.”
Rodriguez needed some help from a fan in right field to get his 11th home run in the second inning. Hunter Pence tracked A-Rod’s drive to the wall in right and leaped. Replays showed it appeared the ball hit Pence’s glove, but a man in the front row wearing an Astros jersey pushed Pence’s glove out of the way with his glove and the ball dropped into the stands for the homer.
Pence fell to the ground, got up and turned and said something to the fan before turning back around.
“The ball carried a lot farther than I thought it would, but I had a good opportunity to catch it,” Pence said. “But then someone knocked my glove away from the ball. It’s just one of those things.”
The homer broke a streak of 13 2-3 innings without an earned run for Wandy Rodriguez.
With two outs in the third inning and Johnny Damon on second, the Astros intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez. Wandy Rodriguez struggled after that, walking Jason Giambi and Cabrera consecutively to score Damon and tie it at 3-3.
Molina followed with a two-run single to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. Wandy Rodriguez struck out Alberto Gonzalez to end the inning.
He settled down and retired the next six batters before being replaced by Tim Byrdak in the sixth inning.
“He was up in the zone with his fastball,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “If you have no command with that, you’re in trouble. His breaking ball wasn’t very sharp either. He just really didn’t have good stuff tonight.”
Houston cut the lead to 5-4 in the seventh on a run-scoring double by Brad Ausmus. His hit down the left-field line rolled right by Alex Rodriguez and into the left-field corner, allowing Michael Bourn to score.
Pinch-hitter Robinson Cano, who was hitless in his previous 17 at-bats, had an RBI single in the eighth to stretch the lead back to two runs.
The Astros intentionally walked Alex Rodriguez for the second time in the ninth inning before he and Damon scored on a double by Betemit that made it 8-4. Damon doubled to start the inning.
Giambi doubled and scored on a double by Cabrera to cut Houston’s lead to 3-2 later in the second inning.
Wandy Rodriguez (2-3) allowed six hits and five runs in five innings.
The loss is Houston’s 13th in the last 16 games and Saturday’s defeat is the Astros season-high fourth straight home loss.
“It’s really tough now,” Lee said. “We were playing so well in May and it seemed like May went away and we went away.”
Gonzalez, called up from the minors on Friday, started at 2B for Cano. … Mussina is now tied with Ted Lyons for 38th place on the career wins list. … A-Rod’s homer was his 184th as a Yankee, passing Tommy Hendrich and tying Charlie Keller for 17th place on the team’s home run list.