EditorsNote: adds Springer info in fourth graf
Justin Verlander scattered four hits in six shutout innings, and George Springer and Jake Marisnick hit solo home runs as the Houston Astros opened the defense of their World Series championship with a 4-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Thursday afternoon at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
Verlander (1-0) struck out five, walked two and hit a batter in his 90-pitch performance in outdueling Texas ace Cole Hamels (0-1). Verlander is now 10-1 in the regular season since being acquired by the Astros from Detroit in a last-minute trade on Aug. 31, 2017.
Hamels (0-1) was lifted after 5 2/3 innings of work in which he allowed three runs (all earned) on five hits with four bases on balls and seven strikeouts.
The Astros jumped in front in the first inning as leadoff man Springer homered to right on his first swing of the season. He became the first player ever to hit leadoff homers on Opening Day in consecutive years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Alex Bregman followed with a double but was stranded as Hamels struck out Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzales.
Texas threatened in the bottom of the second against Verlander, as Adrian Beltre singled and Nomar Mazara reached when he was hit by a bouncing pitch. But Verlander pitched out of the threat when Shin-Soo Choo grounded into a double play, and Robinson Chirinos struck out.
Houston added to the lead in the third on Jose Altuve’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right field, but the Hamels escaped further damage by enticing Gonzales into an inning-ending double-play grounder.
The Astros expanded their advantage to 3-0 in the fourth inning on a two-out solo home run by Marisnick that hit the left-field foul pole.
Altuve scored from first on a double by Correa in the eighth off Matt Bush, the Rangers’ fourth of five pitchers in the game.
Elvis Andrus doubled and scored the Rangers’ run on a wild pitch in the ninth inning off Ken Giles. Beltre and Andrus each had two of the six hits for the Rangers in the loss.
The two teams return to the field on Friday night for the second of a four-game series. The Astros’ left-hander Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA last season) will oppose Texas’ right-hander Doug Fister (5-9, 4.88 ERA for Boston in 2017) in the matchup.
—Field Level Media