Even though I don't attend many these days, I love Opening Day. I love the announcing of the lineups. I love the pageantry, the giant American flags, the celebrity Star Spangled Banner renditions. They had all of that tonight. They even had newest Hall of Famer Craig Biggio throw out the first pitch to reigning AL batting champ Jose Altuve. (ROOT Sports got in on the act with a nice Astros history video narrated by Jimmy Wynn. I got some dust in my eye so I missed the end of it.) Today feels different though. This is the first season in quite a while that the Astros fans have real hope going into the first game. Maybe not "we're gonna win it all!" hope, but at least some "we've got a full major league roster and will compete" hope.
As a sign of what was to come, Dallas Keuchel picked up right where he left off last year, getting a ground ball on the first batter of the evening. Keuchel looked really strong through the first four innings, only allowing one hit,and striking out three. He got a bit shaky in the 5th when he allowed a couple of walks, but got a double play to help him out of the inning. In all, he pitched 7 innings, giving up 3 hits and no runs while striking out 4 and walking 3.
As good as Keuchel pitched, Corey Kluber pitched just as good (or better). He held the Astros hitless through 5 2/3 innings, until (who else?) Altuve flared a ball into center field for a single. He then immediately stole 2nd base. George Springer followed with a two-strike single past the diving shortstop to get Altuve home with the first run of the game. If you are going to break up a guy's no hitter, might as well score, I always say. (Believe me, I ALWAYS say that.) Kluber pitched into the 8th, where he ran into another jam. He walked Jed Lowrie in a great at-bat. Colby Rasmus followed with a single into the right field corner, moving Lowrie to third. Kluber came out of the game, and reliever Scott Atchison gave up a sacrifice fly to Jake Marisnick to add an insurance run.
Luke Gregerson pitched a perfect 9th inning (matching Tony Sipp's perfect 8th inning) to pick up his first save of the season, and preserve the shutout. All in all, a very successful 2015 debut for the new-look Astros. Due to the odd scheduling at the beginning of the season, the team will have tomorrow off, and pick up the series Wednesday against the Indians. Scott Feldman will start against Carlos Carrasco.
Even though the team didn't collect a lot of hits, the bats were not silent. Chris Carter hit 2 shots to the fence, and Springer hit one. Gattis hit the hardest ball all night, and Michael Brantley didn't even have to move to catch that liner.
I didn't get to see any spring games, so it was nice to see these guys play live in an Astros uniform. Evan Gattis is a man. Rasmus has some sweet throwback rocker hair.
Carter has obviously been seriously working on his first base defense. He could not have looked more smooth and comfortable on every ball hit his way.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
Tough to take a no hitter into the 6th and get hung with the loss, and against the guy who is going to take the Cy Young from you this year…— Dustin DeBerry (@dkdeberry) April 7, 2015