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TB@NYY: Pettitte turns in six strong, strikes out 10

The Yankees have been piecing wins together as they await the return of their injured starters.

Starting in place of All-Stars Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez is a group of veterans many assumed were past their prime.

"I don't really have a rhyme or reason for it," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think that this is a great place to play. It's a great clubhouse to be in, it's a great atmosphere to come into every night -- whether you're home or on the road -- and there's an expectation here. I think a lot of guys feed off that."

The Yankees will send their veteran team against the Astros on Monday at Yankee Stadium as they try to extend their four-game winning streak.

Taking the mound for New York will be one of the elder statesmen of the group, 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, who will be facing his former Astros team for only the second time in his career.

Pettitte has been off to an excellent start this season, allowing only seven earned runs in four starts. In his last outing, he struck out a season-high 10 batters, but he took his first loss of the year against the Rays on Wednesday.

"I had two strikeouts and a chance to get out of it, and I didn't do it," said Pettitte referring to his two-run fifth inning. "That was obviously really the game right there."

For the Astros, it'll be 27-year-old Lucas Harrell, who is coming off his best outing of the season as he hopes to end the team's four-game slide. Harrell held the Mariners to six hits and one run in seven innings Wednesday, and he has allowed only four earned runs in 18 1/3 innings in his past three starts.

"I'd gotten away from being aggressive; I need to attack more," said Harrell, who allowed the lone run against him on a double play. "Strike one was huge today. My goal was to attack and get strike one."

When Harrell takes the mound, he'll also try to end the team's nine-game road skid.

"You've got to clean this slate regardless," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "The Yankees are going to come, and they're not going to feel sorry for us. They're going to try to beat us the same way we're going to try to beat them."

Astros: Houston makes rare appearance at Yankee Stadium
The Astros' three-game set in New York marks their first series against the Yankees as a member of the American League and only their second visit to the new Yankee Stadium (2010). Houston is 1-8 against the Yankees lifetime, including 1-5 in New York. Houston's only win over the Yankees was a six-pitcher no-hitter at the old Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2003.

Astros outfielder/designated hitter Chris Carter sat Sunday after struggling in his previous 13 games. Carter was hitting .140 (6-for-43) during that stretch.

"I think he will become more consistent," Porter said. "Sometimes, from a manager's standpoint, you take it out of their hands and say, 'I'm going to give you a day.' This was more of a decision to give him a day, and on top of it, give Ronny Cedeno a chance to get more at-bats, as well."

Five of Rick Ankiel's 10 hits this season have been homers and three have gone for doubles in 18 games. He has posted a .512 slugging percentage.

Yankees: New York among MLB's best since slow start
The Yankees are 14-5 (.737) since April 7 after starting the year with a 1-4 record, and they have the second-best winning percentage in the Majors over the stretch, trailing only Boston.

 The Yankees are a Major League-best 14-1 this season when holding their opponents to four runs or fewer. Their one loss in such a game this season happened in Pettitte's last start against Tampa Bay.

After sitting out the series finale against the Blue Jays on Sunday, Kevin Youkilis will undergo an MRI on Monday to further examine the cause of his back tightness.

Worth noting
 Pettitte spent three seasons with the Astros from 2004-06, going 37-26 with a 3.38 ERA in 84 appearances (83 starts). He was named the Pitcher of the Year in 2005 by the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America after going 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA in 33 starts.

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