Astros daily report: Astros 5, Rays 1

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

A quick rundown of Thursday's Opening Day Astros game against the Rays:

Final Score: Astros 5, Rays 1

Record: 1-0, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (1-0).

Losing pitcher: Blake Snell (0-1).

Star of the game: George Springer, after breaking his streak of consecutive season lead-off home runs to start the game, came through in his second at-bat with a huge three-run home run drilled to straight center field to get Houston on the board and give them their first lead. That makes three years in a row with a home run on Opening Day for Springer.

Notes: Verlander looked rattled early, giving up a solo home run to Austin Meadows to start his day then putting the first two batters on base in the second, but rebounded nicely to post a solid start with just one run on three hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts. After struggling the first time through the order against last year's Cy Young winner, the Astros were able to get at Snell and tag him with three home runs; the three-run homer by Springer then solo shots by newcomer Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve. Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna closed things out and looked sharp in their season debuts out of the bullpen.

Up next: The series will continue Friday night with game two of the four-game series at 6:10 PM. We'll get another strong pitching matchup with Gerrit Cole going up against former Astro Charlie Morton.

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NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 preview, picks

Watch out for Ryan Blaney this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s a Memorial Day Tradition; The NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte for the annual Coca-Cola 600. This race is probably the third most crucial race all season, behind the Daytona 500 and the Season Finale at Phoenix. Anyone who wins this race will always be able to say that they were Coke 600 champions. No race on the schedule is as long as this one, because of this there will be a 4th stage added to the race. Teams will be provided 13 sets of tires, and if the last few weeks have been any indication, they will need all the tires they can get. With the race being as long as it is, there is a good possibility this could be an attrition race and the driver that survives will more than likely win. The record for the most cautions in NASCAR history was 22 cautions, at this same race in 2005. Come Sunday, I bet we get close to that number.

What's the deal with all of these tire failures? Last week in the All-Star race we saw drivers like Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Erik Jones all crash out because they had a flat. There are many factors that could be contributing to this, for one the tires are much wider and the sidewalls are much more narrow. Because of this, the tire falloff is much shorter, so now instead of going maybe 40-45 laps on one set of tires, drivers can now only go 25-30 laps. The other major facet is that a lot of teams are running much lower air pressures to get the car to handle better by being closer to the ground. Goodyear and NASCAR usually require the right side tires to run around 51-52 PSI, the rule however isn’t enforced for the left side tires, so drivers will push the limits to see how much they can take out to make the car faster. The fact that we were seeing such tire ware on smooth surfaces like Texas and Atlanta is a clear sign that there is a problem, but not all of it is on Goodyear. Only time will tell how this develops on tracks with old abrasive surfaces, like when they go back to Bristol in the fall.

One of NASCAR’s newest teams, Trackhouse racing, made a bit of a surprise announcement this week. Starting at Watkins Glenn in August, the team will run a third car with a series of international drivers, starting with 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. This is something that I think is interesting for the sport. I am a bit surprised that another team hasn’t already done this before. Having drivers like Kimi, one of the more world renowned racers in F1, can really bring a whole new audience to NASCAR. There have been rumors on whom some of the other drivers might be, from Daniel Riccardo to even Lewis Hamilton. There will be a lot of intrigue about who will be the next driver.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Ryan Blaney. After winning the All-Star race, it seems like Roger Penske and the rest of the Ford camp are picking up steam. Overall, Blaney tends to struggle at this track with an 18.8 average finish, but if last week is any indication of how his car will run on mile and halves like Charlotte, he will be a fierce contender for the win.

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