HOUSTON -- In winning eight of 10 games, the Yankees have discovered the quality starting pitching that might keep their playoff aspirations afloat even with the specter of the looming trade deadline.
With left-hander CC Sabathia snapping his six-start winless streak on Tuesday night in a 6-3 victory over the Astros, the Yankees will enter the series finale with their third consecutive series win in hand and a sweep in reach.
Of those eight victories since July 17, starters have recorded seven wins. Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller blew the save yet picked up the victory on July 22 against the Giants, a 3-2 win where right-hander Masahiro Tanaka delivered to the Yankees six scoreless innings.
"I just think they've gotten on a roll," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia, Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and Nathan Eovaldi. "Similar to hitting you get on a roll and the competition between each other -- we've always felt they were better than the stretches when they were struggling. The talent's there; it's execution.
"I've seen them do it before. Yeah they might have a bad start here and there but I think they're in a pretty good spot now. The guys feel pretty good about themselves. I just think they can do it."
Tanaka, who leads the majors with a 1.50 ERA on the road, will get the start for New York (52-48) in the series finale.
Against the Giants, Tanaka (7-2, 3.00 ERA) produced his fourth scoreless start of the season, all of which lasted at least six innings, the most by a Yankees pitcher since Hiroki Kuroda had eight in 2013.
Tanaka did not factor into the decision in a 5-3 loss to the Astros on April 5 after allowing two runs on four hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. While that marked his first regular-season appearance against Houston, Tanaka suffered the loss in the 2015 wild-card game to the Astros, surrendering two runs on four hits and three walks in a 3-0 setback at Yankee Stadium.
The Astros (54-46) will try to avoid being swept at home for the first time since May 20-22 behind right-hander Lance McCullers (5-4, 3.33 ERA), who struck out 10 batters while working a season-high eight innings in his previous start, a victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
McCullers will be making his first career appearance against the Yankees, having missed the season-opening series in the Bronx while on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness.
It was the Astros who entered the series with the best pitching in the majors since May 1 with a 3.36 ERA. But behind Pineda and Sabathia the Yankees have excelled, with Sabathia reversing course from his recent struggles and exerting a surprising level of command over Houston.
"All we're looking for right now is to get the win," said Astros infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who homered twice on Tuesday, including in the first inning off Sabathia. "He (Sabathia) wasn't missing that many pitches. It was a good day for him."