NEW YORK — A little bunt caused a big problem for Michael Pineda and the New York Yankees.
Already starting to wobble in his return to the majors, Pineda unraveled after getting tangled up in the fifth inning. The Houston Astros went on to send the Yankees to their fifth loss in seven games, 6-2 Wednesday.
"The inning kind of got away from him and it cost us some runs," manager Joe Girardi said.
Pineda (9-8) came off the disabled list after missing nearly a month because of a strained right forearm. New York needs him to do well, especially after putting starter CC Sabathia on the DL this week and slipped out of the AL East lead, but Pineda was tagged for five runs on six hits and a walk in 4 1-3 innings.
"In the first couple innings, I threw the ball really good. Everything was working good," he said.
"In the fifth inning, I got a little trouble," he said.
The AL West-leading Astros, who top the majors in home runs, showed off their small-ball side during a four-run fifth that made it 5-0.
Carlos Gomez beat out an infield hit and Luis Valbuena followed with a hit-and-run single that put runners at the corners.
Jake Marisnick then bunted toward the right side and first baseman Greg Bird fielded the ball. Pineda and second baseman Stephen Drew both headed to the bag to cover — Bird's throw to Drew was late, and a run scored on the single.
"Confusion at first base, two people at first base," Girardi said.
The Yankees finished 5-5 on their homestand that started with a three-game sweep of Minnesota. New York hit .165 and scored four runs while losing two of three to Houston.
"We're just not hitting. I mean that's the bottom line. We didn't swing the bats extremely well against Cleveland or Houston, and that's kind of been the root of our problems," Girardi said.
Evan Gattis hit two home runs and Collin McHugh excelled once again as Houston won a road series for the first time since mid-June.
The Astros improved to 71-57, a year after going 70-92. With 34 games left on the schedule, they already have achieved their best season since 2010.
Gattis sliced an opposite-field shot to right in the second inning and launched a long drive into the left field seats in the eighth. His third homer in two days gave him 22 this year and boosted the Astros' total to 174.
McHugh (14-7) kept up a recent run of ace pitching, both for himself and the team with the top ERA in the league. Houston has won seven of nine, not permitting more than two runs in any game.
McHugh shut out the Yankees until Didi Gregorius hit a two-run homer in the seventh. He outpitched Pineda (9-8) for the second time this year and has allowed just seven runs in his last five starts.
A day after a 15-1 romp that saw excitable Carlos Gomez get into a dustup with the Yankees, there weren't any signs of ill will between the teams. Houston star Jose Altuve was hit in the shoulder by a pitch in the ninth and merely looked at reliever Nick Goody as he walked to first base.
Earlier, Altuve stole his AL-leading 33rd base. The Astros top the league in steals, too.
Gattis connected off Adam Warren in the eighth for his fifth career multihomer game and second this season.
Yankees: 1B Mark Teixeira and CF Jacoby Ellsbury didn't start. Girardi said they were sore after Tuesday night's game and hoped they would be OK to start Friday night at Atlanta. ... INF-OF Dustin Ackley (back strain) is ready to begin a Triple-A rehab assignment Thursday.
Astros: LHP Scott Kazmir (7-8, 2.39) starts a three-game series at Minnesota. He is 2-3 in six starts since being acquired from Oakland and owns the AL's third-best ERA.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (9-6, 3.61) starts at Atlanta. C Brian McCann, born and raised in Georgia, is looking forward to his first game back at Turner Field as a visitor. A seven-time All-Star with the Braves, he said former teammate Chipper Jones "taught me how to hit at this level" and ace John Smoltz showed him how to call games. McCann said he was eager to spend time with his kids and relax around the pool and grill.
Promoted from Triple-A before the game, Goody was optioned back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the loss.
Chris Young ended his 0-for-21 slump with a single his first time up.