Houston Astros baseball is back, and the local nine has won the first home series against the Seattle Mariners.
I was so excited to finally get to watch live baseball that I forgot to use my score sheets to keep track of everything, so you’ll forgive me all of the gory details, won’t you? It was so good to see the Houston Astros on the TV with Geoff Blum and Kevin Eschenfelder announcing, even if fans were represented by cardboard cutouts and piped-in sounds.
And even though it looks a lot different, hearing the balls hit into the catcher’s mitts and the crack of the bats were sounds for sore ears making it so much easier to overlook the mostly empty seats in the background. Even though we didn’t get the coveted sweep, we won the series and that’s all that matters, right?
Maybe that is all that matters because in the end, it is about the end goal, not the journey, no matter how tumultuous the journey can be.
Game 1, (8-2 Astros win)
Justin Verlander made his 12th consecutive Opening Day start on Friday night and walked away with the win, leading the Astros to their eighth consecutive Opening Day win in Dusty Baker’s 3,500th regular season game as manager. The takeaway from Friday night was not so much the performance of Verlander on the mound but the fact that on Saturday, he was shut down for at least a couple of weeks with forearm discomfort. Along with Aledmys Diaz, the first game of the Astros season opener saw two key players placed on the IL.
For all of the talk and worries surrounding the bullpen, Friday night was encouraging. The last three innings of the game were highlighted with characteristic strength by Chris Devenski, but perhaps the most hope came from the debuts of both Blake Taylor and Enoli Paredes. These are two guys to watch as they are sure to continue to impress.
Even more surprising was the breakout by Martin Maldonado. He deserves to be named the player of the game, if not the series, going 2-for-4, scoring one run and driving in two.
Game 2, (7-2 Astros win)
Making his first start since August of 2018, Lance McCullers, Jr., had a strong outing for the win. He threw 92 pitches (53 for strikes) with a pitch mix of 39 percent curveballs, 28 percent changeups, and 32 percent fastballs.
Again, the pitching out of the bullpen in this game was not as concerning as the hype would have had us all believe. Strong relief appearances were made by Cristian Javier and Cy Sneed, not to mention a surprise appearance by Roberto Osuna, who was rumored not to be ready.
Sneed is perhaps the sneaky silent weapon of the bullpen, striking out three in the eighth. But the offense was looking good with Yuli Gurriel and George Springer both getting their first home runs of the season. Kyle Tucker had a promising outing as DH, going 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Again, Maldonado managed to impress, going 2-for-4 with two more RBIs. He’s been working hard and it shows.