HOUSTON — The Mets gave up on Collin McHugh. So did Colorado. But the Houston Astros, who seem to unearth nuggets from baseball’s scrap heap, discovered something in McHugh, a right-handed pitcher, that others did not.
The Yankees learned that on Sunday in a 3-1 loss in which McHugh was masterly, allowing just two singles over eight innings and forcing the Yankees to settle for a split of the teams’ four-game series.
McHugh (9-3), relying on his location and breaking pitches, consistently worked ahead in the count and retired 17 of the final 18 batters he faced. Luke Gregerson retired the Yankees in order in the ninth.
The Astros took the lead in the seventh, breaking a 1-1 tie. The rookie shortstop Carlos Correa led off the inning with a double into the left-field corner. Jose Altuve bunted him to third, and he scored when Evan Gattis blasted a triple off the left-center-field wall.
Houston added another run in the eighth when Preston Tucker doubled inside the first-base line, took third on a groundout and scored on Jason Castro’s fly ball to left.
A lack of communication, which has bedeviled the Yankees at least three times in the last month, hurt them on Sunday. With starter Michael Pineda cruising along, having retired nine in a row, Correa lofted an innocuous fly ball to left-center field. As Garrett Jones camped under it, Brett Gardner raced in and appeared to call him off.
When Jones gave way at the last instant, Gardner was in no position to catch the ball. It dropped and then skipped past Gardner, who struggled to pick it up as it rolled to the wall. Correa raced all the way around the bases.
The play erased the 1-0 lead the Yankees had taken in the third when Stephen Drew walked, took second on a wild pitch and scored when Gardner tomahawked a high fastball up the middle.
Pineda had been pounded in his previous start, with Philadelphia scoring eight runs off him in less than four innings. The Yankees, having used their best three relievers — Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve — in each of the last two days, sorely needed Pineda to have a lengthy outing.
Pineda delivered, throwing a complete game.
Other than the mix-up between Gardner and Jones, the Yankees’ defense served Pineda well. Shortstop Didi Gregorius turned a grounder near second base into a double play, surviving George Springer’s hard slide, and catcher Brian McCann threw out two of the Astros’ speediest runners, Altuve and Domingo Santana.
JACOBY ELLSBURY, who ran in front of Manager JOE GIRARDI before the games Saturday and Sunday, was cleared to begin a rehabilitation assignment Monday in Tampa, Fla. Ellsbury has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a sprained knee. Before the game, the Yankees recalled the right-handed pitcher ESMIL ROGERS from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned infielder GREGORIO PETIT. To make room for Rogers on the 40-man roster, outfielder SLADE HEATHCOTT was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.