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McCarthy pitches four-hitter for Yankees

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[August 22, 2014]  NEW YORK -- It would have been easy for Brandon McCarthy to think he has a small margin of error with a three-run lead.

Instead, McCarthy treated his latest start like a scoreless game and remained locked in on the opposing hitters.

McCarthy's pitches carved up the Houston Astros in a four-hitter that helped the Yankees salvage the finale of a three-game series with a 3-0 victory on Thursday afternoon.

McCarthy (5-2) turned in his ninth career complete game and fourth shutout. It was his first shutout since May 18, 2013, in Miami with Arizona and this time he did with a Yankees offense that struggled immensely in the first two games.

"It's not something I think about," McCarthy said. "There's no score when I'm out there. It's just focusing on scouting reports. It's focus on this pitch. If you start and think about it that way, you're going the wrong way."

McCarthy had thr lead after two innings when switch-hitting third baseman Chase Headley supplied a two-run double and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki lifted a sacrifice. That came after the Yankees opened the inning with three straight hits and moved a runner to third on a groundout.

The Yankees won for just the third time in 10 games and moved within four games of the Detroit Tigers for the second American League wild-card spot.

Armed with New York's first three-run lead since Aug. 8 against Cleveland, McCarthy worked out of two threats and lowered his ERA to 1.90. Before being dealt to the Yankees from Arizona on July 6, it had been 5.01.

McCarthy finished with New York's ninth shutout of the season even though he felt a little tired in the middle innings.

"We knew he was a better pitcher than his numbers indicated because we had seen him firsthand," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "We knew he had the ability to pitch. We knew he had a good fastball, a cutter, a curveball, so it's really worked out and he's thrown the ball great for us."

McCarthy retired the first nine hitters before getting into a second-and-third jam with two outs in the fourth inning after a double by center fielder Dexter Fowler. McCarthy finished the inning by getting right fielder Marc Krauss on a groundout.

After breezing through the fifth and sixth innings, McCarthy put two on with one out after a single by designated hitter Chris Carter and a double by Krauss. He kept the shutout by striking out first baseman Jon Singleton and getting catcher Carlos Corporan on a fly ball.

McCarthy sailed through the eighth inning on eight pitches as closer David Robertson began warming up. He was on a batter-by-batter basis for the ninth inning, but McCarthy finished off New York's fifth complete game in two hours, seven minutes by retiring second baseman Jose Altuve, Carter and Fowler.

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"He had it all working today," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He carved us up pretty good. Did a great job of attacking the inner third of the plate."

McCarthy threw 79 of 107 pitches for strikes. He had two at-bats that reached three ball -- both to Carter, who homered Tuesday but struck out nine times in this series.

"Efficiency, location, his sinker, his curveball, he was in command really most of the game," Girardi said.

The right-hander also got 11 ground-ball outs while striking out eight without a walk and facing four above the minimum.

"He was phenomenal," Headley said. "It was great to play behind him."

Keuchel (10-9) went the distance, allowing three runs and seven hits for his fifth complete game of the season. He became the first Astros left-hander to throw at least five complete games since Mike Hampton had seven in 1997.

The Astros were blanked for the 13th time this season and held without a home run for the third time in the last 10 games.

NOTES: The Yankees recalled IF/OF Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and started him at designated hitter. Wheeler spent time with the team in July and batted .267 with two home runs and three RBIs. ... RHP Chase Whitley was optioned back to the minors after having a 5.43 ERA in 19 appearances (12 starts) in three months with the Yankees. ... Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (right elbow) will face hitters Saturday either in a simulated game or in live batting practice. ... Houston RHP Chad Qualls remains day to day with a stiff lower back that tightened up Tuesday. ... The Astros entered the game leading the American League with 145 runs scored since the All-Star break.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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