Hafner helps Yanks down Astros

Travis Hafner went 3-for-4 with three RBI, Hiroki Kuroda pitched seven scoreless innings and the New York Yankees downed the Houston Astros, 7-4, in the middle portion of a three-game series.

Kuroda (4-1) battled through a shaky start and retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced. He gave up four hits and four walks while fanning eight as New York took its fifth win in six games.

Lyle Overbay smacked a solo homer, Chris Stewart went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Eduardo Nunez had three hits and scored a run as the Yankees knocked around Philip Humber (0-6), who was tagged for four runs on nine hits in six innings to lose his sixth consecutive outing to begin the season.

"Eventually the balls are going to bounce my way," Humber said. "Hopefully it happens soon, I'm getting a little bit frustrated."

Chris Carter belted a two-run homer and Jose Altuve went 2-for-5 with two RBI to highlight Houston's offense.

The Yankees scored their first two runs without any crisp hits. In the first frame, Brett Gardner walked, stole second and advanced to third when Ichiro Suzuki beat out an infield single. Two batters later, Hafner sent a humpback liner to left field that appeared to be caught by Brandon Barnes. Barnes, however, was ruled to have trapped the ball, and Gardner scored on the single.

Two innings later, Hafner sent a dribbler through the shift to plate Suzuki, who reached on a dropped third strike and stole second.

The Astros had several quality hits in the first three innings but stranded seven baserunners. They came away empty with runners on the corners and one out in the first, left the bases loaded in the second, then watched Kuroda set down three straight after he put the first two on in the third.

"You have to be pretty good to stick around and make it through those first three innings and then end up giving your team seven," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of his starter.

Kuroda shook off Altuve's leadoff single in the fifth, and New York added two in the bottom half. Suzuki, after legging out a tapper to third, scored when Brennan Boesch beat out a potential inning-ending double-play ball, and Jayson Nix's sharp ground ball to short ate up Marwin Gonzalez, allowing Robinson Cano to cross the plate for a 4-0 New York lead.

After Carter halved the deficit with his sixth home run of the season in the eighth, the Yankees tacked on three insurance runs against Rhiner Cruz and Brad Peacock. Overbay led off the eighth with a blast into the right-field bleachers, and Stewart singled in Nunez before scoring on Hafner's bloop hit to left.

Shawn Kelley yielded Altuve's two out, two-run double in the ninth, and with the tying run on deck, Mariano Rivera entered from the bullpen and struck out Jason Castro to pick up an easy save -- his 10th of the season.

Game Notes

Houston won the opener of the series in a 9-1 final, scoring just four runs less than the total it has scored in all of Humber's starts this season ... Humber has allowed 19 runs and 27 hits over his last three starts ... Kuroda improved to 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA in eight career starts against Houston ... Before the game, the Yankees placed infielder Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list with a lumbar spine sprain ... Wednesday's rubber match pits Houston's Erik Bedard against New York's David Phelps.