Astros: A “golden” home opening series preview vs. the Orioles


Time to raise the championship banner and hand out the rings, Astros!

The Astros official home opener for the 2018 season takes place on this Monday evening. First home opponent of the season?

The 1-2 Orioles led by Manny Machado.

But this game in Minute Maid Park isn’t like past home openers. This opener will be the first time in franchise history that the Astros took the field as the defending World Series champions in front of the home crowd. Minute Maid Park better be ready for a “golden” celebration. Not only do we get to see the banner raised on Monday and the ring ceremony on Tuesday, the Astros will be donning a uniform and hat with gold letters and numbers to commemorate their championship.

All of that said, last year was last year. The championship celebration is cool and all, but the focus needs to be on Baltimore starting tonight. Sorry, I can be a wet blanket at times.

Here are the pitching matchups for this three-game series.

Game No. 1: RHP Charlie Morton (2017: 14-7, 3.62 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (2017: 1-7, 7.84 ERA)

Game No. 2: RHP Justin Verlander (2018: 1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Wright Jr. (2017: 0-0, 5.76 ERA in 25 innings of relief)

Game No. 3: LHP Dallas Keuchel (2018: 0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (2018: 0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game 7 of the World Series hero, Charlie Morton, will get the nod for the first game of the series. A.J. Hinch has stated that he felt Morton deserved the first home start of the season in light of his vital role in clinching the Astros’ first-ever World Series title.

For his career against Baltimore, Morton has a 0-2 record with a 9.82 ERA in only 7.1 innings of work. But this will be his first appearance against the Orioles since the 2014 season when he was with the Pirates.

Veteran right-hander Chris Tillman will get the ball for the Orioles in opposition of Morton. For his career, Tillman has faced the Astros seven prior times. In 40 innings, he has a 4.05 ERA with 20 walks and 29 strikeouts. The past two seasons against Houston, however, hasn’t been kind to Tillman.

2016: 0-1, 8.00 ERA, 9 IP, 9 H, 8 R/8 ER, 8 BB:5 SO

2017: 0-0, 5.06 ERA, 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R/3 ER, 0 BB:5 SO

The rest of the series features Justin Verlander going against Mike Wright Jr. and Dallas Keuchel versus Dylan Bundy. The Orioles will have their hands full with the Astros. Entering Monday’s game, the Orioles have only scored five runs in their first three games. The Astros have scored 22 runs in their first four games.

In terms of the pitching staffs, the Astros have a combined 3.00 ERA in 35 innings. The Orioles pitching staff has surprisingly been slightly better than their offense with a 4.34 ERA in 29 innings. Of course, the season for Baltimore is only three games. The Astros have only played four games, so the numbers don’t necessarily carry much weight right now.

Next: Astros: First series win in the books

If the Astros can take this series at home, they would be setting themselves up for another solid start to the season. Baltimore is sort of an enigma this season as Machado is likely on the move by the trade deadline if the team flounders. Of course, there is no telling what will happen over the course of a 162-game season.

**Statistics and information courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs**