Astros spank Rangers in A.L. debut


The Astros put a good old-fashioned Texas butt-whoopin’ on the Dallas Rangers in tonight’s season opener. Who’s laughing now? The young team that has been the brunt of a seemingly endless number of jokes over the past month — that’s who. The Astros outplayed the Rangers to the tune of an 8-2 win in front of a capacity crowd at Minute Maid Park. A crowd that was, thankfully, mostly Astros fans.

Rookie manager Bo Porter clearly outmanaged his veteran counterpart, Ron Washington. Rick Ankiel‘s pinch hit 3-run homer in the sixth inning broke the game open, extending Houston’s lead to 7-2. Ankiel was summoned to bat for Brandon Barnes when right-hander Derek Lowe came into the game to pitch for the Rangers.

Another key play took place an inning earlier when Ronny Cedeno executed a nice hit-and-run play with Barnes on first base. Cedeno reached out and slapped Matt Harrison‘s offering to rightfield where Nelson Cruz proceeded to kick the ball around as Barnes motored all the way home.

Bud Norris picked up the win in Sunday’s season opener (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Bud Norris delivered a solid performance for the Astros. Norris threw 97 pitches in 5 & 2/3 innings. The Astros starter allowed two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out five. Erik Bedard came out of the bullpen and silenced the Rangers bats the rest of the way to earn a 10-out save.

Norris had his slider working. Bud needed 26 pitches to get out of a jam in the third inning and came back to make quick work of the Rangers in the fourth and fifth. Norris didn’t allow a run until the sixth, when the Rangers scored twice to knock him out of the game. Bo Porter gave his starter a chance to work out of the jam but Norris couldn’t quite get through the inning.

On the offensive side Justin Maxwell smacked a pair of triples, the first of which plated two runs. Maxwell also drew a walk and scored twice. Jose Altuve had a couple of hits. His leadoff single in the first will forever be the answer to an Astros trivia question. Matt Dominguez had four quality at-bats in the game. The young third-baseman saw seven pitches in each of his first two plate appearances. Those two at-bats would result in a groundout and a strikeout, but Dominguez drew a walk and singled in his subsequent plate appearances.

ESPN’s Buster Olney did an in-game interview with Astros G.M. Jeff Luhnow without ever mentioning the “integrity of the game”. Overall, the game coverage was much more tolerable than I expected.

The Astros get to savor the victory and their perch at the top of the division standings for almost 48 hours. After a day off tomorrow the two teams will be back to work on Tuesday. Lucas Harrell will be on the mound for the Astros and Yu Darvish gets the start for the Rangers.