The game means something now that the Astros will open the season versus the Mariners.
As I watched the three official opening day games yesterday, it got me more excited about today’s game. The Houston Astros will be facing a division rival in the Seattle Mariners. Both teams made some moves this offseason to sure up for a playoff run this year, but only one team will win the AL West. While the Astros don’t need to win the opening series to make the playoffs, it would get them off to a good start.
The starting pitcher for the Astros will be Dallas Keuchel, someone trying to bounce back from an injury-plagued season. In 2015, the baseball writers chose Keuchel as the best pitcher in the AL, naming him the Cy Young Award winner. The pressure to perform in 2016 led him not to disclose a shoulder injury. With the team that Jeff Luhnow built, the pressure will be there again this year. However, Keuchel knows better this time.
As I watched Chris Archer, Masahiro Tanaka, Madison Bumgarner, and others pitch yesterday, an ace is not always an ace. Archer got hit in the leg early by a Gary Sanchez groundout and looked a little off for a while. However, he settled down to pitch seven innings. On the other side, the Yankees ace finished with a 23.63 ERA in three-plus innings. Yankees fans have spent all offseason thinking that Tanaka is their ace.
These players are human, well except for Bumgarner. The Giants ace threw five perfect innings before allowing the first hit, a triple by the catcher. Bumgarner also hit two homers, but the Giants fell to the Diamondbacks in the ninth inning. For two teams with the offensive firepower of the Cubs and Cardinals, the Cardinals won the game 1-0. Most teams will throw their best pitchers out there for opening day, the Astros will too.
Keuchel will do his best.
It’s not fair for us to expect that Keuchel will pitch a no-hitter versus the Mariners killer row. If anyone could tame the middle of the order, it would be Keuchel. Despite getting off to a late start this Spring, Keuchel looks ready to go 6-7 innings tonight. A win on opening day versus a team that many feel will be our primary threat would be great. This will be Keuchel’s third opening day start for the Houston Astros.
In three games versus the Mariners last year, Keuchel went 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19 innings. Felix Hernandez will be on the mound versus the Astros. Last year, the Astros ambushed Hernandez to the tune of a 0-2 record with an 8.10 ERA with six strikeouts in ten innings.
As we saw yesterday, the ace who pitches the best could lead to the win. The Astros bullpen may have a slight advantage over Seattle, despite a closer who can throw 100 mph in Edwin Diaz. While winning or losing opening day won’t make or break the season, it’s always good to win opening day.
Join Talking Stros live from 4 – 5:30 pm CST today at Jackson Street BBQ. We will preview the season and talk about who will win each division. We will be giving away a pair of Astros tickets and a Pixartsy Astros poster. Come grab a beer and great BBQ while listening to us talk Astros baseball. This will be our last broadcast with KTXF-db as we move to Sports Talk 790.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***