The Astros open the 2022 season like they have since joining the American League — with a win.
The Houston Astros won their 10th-straight Opening Day game in a 3-1 victory over the reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim on Thursday night.
Fresh off winning the American League Pennant last season, the Astros were looking to make a statement after a flurry of offseason moves by the rest of the AL West teams. The Astros are still the team to beat in the West, and they showed it.
Manager Dusty Baker would have normally went with a veteran — the likes of Lance McCullers Jr. or Justin Verlander — for an Opening Day start. However, both pitchers were unable to take the mound due to injury and the shortened spring, respectively.
Instead, Baker gave the ball to Framber Valdez for his first Opening Day start. The young, left-handed pitcher did not miss a beat after his breakout regular season in 2021, out dueling the beyond-talented Ohtani.
Valdez, who didn’t pitch more than three innings in a single spring training outing, only needed 84 pitches to win the game. He finished with 6.2 innings, two hits, one walk, six strikeouts and nine ground-ball outs.
No one helped Valdez’s ground=ball crusade more than rookie shortstop, Jeremy Peña. Making his MLB debut in the season opener, there were a lot of critical eyes on the young shortstop as he attempts to fill the void left by the former shortstop, Carlos Correa.
While it’s unreasonable to compare Peña and Correa, the rookie was solid on defense for the Astros. He helped turn three double-plays and fielded multiple ground balls, but finally slipped in the bottom of the seventh inning, barley pulling Gurriel off the bag trying to gun down a speedy Mike Trout.
Peña wasn’t able to get on base in his big league debut, but he didn’t need to. The Astros got on Ohtani in the top of the first inning. Michael Brantley got the first Astros’ hit of the 2022 regular season, and the Astros would ultimately strand two runners, scoring zero runs.
Alex Bregman, who grounded into a fielder’s choice in that first inning, didn’t let his second opportunity to drive in Brantley pass by. Bregman drove in the first run of the game after taking an Ohtani splitter into left field for a single.
Ohtani was solid, pitching 4.2 innings, one earned-run, nine strikeouts and a walk. However, his pitch count got ran up pretty quick against the ever patient Astros lineup, and he was relieved in the fifth inning.
The Angels showed that their weakness in their bullpen. Bregman and Yordan Alvarez hit a couple of homers off Astros’ foe, Ryan Tapera. Tapera is known for making baseless insinuations about Houston being up to something nefarious during the 2021 ALDS against the Chicago White Sox.
Apparently, the Astros are keeping receipts.
In addition to scoring the first two runs of the night, Bregman finished the night with two hits, along with Brantley and Chas McCormick.
The Astros will look to carry this success into game two, which features a head-to-head pitching matchup of Jake Odorizzi and Reid Detmers.
Prior to Thursday’s contest, the Astros designated Tyler Ivey for assignment to add Ronel Blanco to the 40-man roster. Three players — Lance McCullers Jr. (right-forearm strain), Jake Meyers (left shoulder surgery) and Taylor Jones (lower-back discomfort) — were moved to the 10-day injured list.