But the Yankees had other unexpected troubles, as their two best relievers, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, melted down late and the Houston Astros rallied for four runs in the eighth inning to stun the Yankees, 7-6.
Brought on to protect a 6-3 lead, Betances got one out before walking Jose Altuve, who stole second and third before scoring on a groundout by Carlos Correa. Betances then gave up a booming solo home run to Evan Gattis and walked two more batters before giving way to Chapman, who gave up a two-run, two-out double on a 3-2 pitch to Yuli Gurriel that capped the Astros’ comeback.
Ken Giles got pinch-hitter Aaron Judge and Frazier to pop up in the ninth before Brett Gardner singled to left, but Gardner was thrown out by Correa after taking too large a turn at first — a crushing ending to a devastating loss for the Yankees, who were trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since June 12.
Frazier’s leadoff double in the fifth sparked a five-run inning that Didi Gregorius capped with a grand slam, and Frazier’s solo homer in the sixth — a liner that barely cleared the top rail in left — was another flash of the talent that made Frazier the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Even beforehand Frazier’s first day as a major leaguer was filled with the requisite giddiness — “I feel like I have a cape on my back, and I’m just wearing B.P. pants right now,” he said, referring to his batting practice attire — and his girlfriend, parents, sister and agent flew in for the occasion. But the admonishment from Pedrique was among the reminders that the Yankees are still trying to sand down his rough edges.
Those edges were apparent during spring training, when Frazier’s bushy red hair flouted the Yankees’ longstanding policy prohibiting long hair. The rebellion was successful until C. C. Sabathia made his own point by growing a beard, prompting Manager Joe Girardi to call Frazier in and tell him to get a haircut.
Frazier said he had been surprised his hair generated so much attention.
“I meant no harm in growing it out,” he said. “I was just under the impression that I was still following the rules, and I needed to get called out to realize that I was the black sheep in the crowd.”
More feathers were ruffled when the Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman said in a radio interview that she had heard that Frazier had asked if the Yankees might pull Mickey Mantle’s No. 7 out of retirement for him. Denials from Frazier (who wore No. 30 on Saturday) and the team followed.
Girardi said he hoped the experiences from the spring had made Frazier think about what he wants people to focus on: the way he plays on the field, or things he does and says off it.
Still, in a circumspect, say-the-right-thing clubhouse, Frazier immediately stands out for his willingness to speak his mind. He had no problem, again, on Saturday explaining that his struggles after arriving as the centerpiece of a trade involving Andrew Miller last July were a result of trying to justify the deal.
His slow start at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in April came down to trying to impress his way to New York, he said.
“I just needed to fail more to realize that there are things that I needed to work on to be the player that I’m capable of being,” he said.
Frazier, who in Class AAA was hitting .257, with 12 home runs and nine stolen bases in 11 attempts, is the 10th Yankee to make his major league debut this season. And it took a long list of injuries — to Aaron Hicks, then Dustin Fowler — and the dropping of Mason Williams from the 40-man roster to open the way for Frazier.
But now that he is here, it may be hard for him to avoid notice.
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