Houston starts the season with a victory

Astros cruise past A's for Opening Day win

Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley of the Astros celebrating
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley celebrate a home run on Opening Day 2021

After coming a game shy of making their third World Series appearance in four years, the Astros left behind the pandemic-shortened 2020 season where they fell to the Rays in the ALCS and turned their attention to a new, clean 162-game slate. As far as the fans at Oakland Coliseum were concerned Thursday night, though, their reputation was anything but clean, as Houston began their 2021 regular season playing their first regular-season game in front of booing fans to start a four-game series against the A's. The Astros were able to weather the hostility, driving in enough runs to back up a solid start by Zack Greinke to start the year 1-0.

Final Score: Astros 8, A's 1

Astros' Record: 1-0, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke

Losing Pitcher: Chris Bassitt

Houston brings in the first runs

Both teams began the night quietly at the plate, with just a lone hit on each side through three innings. Houston fared better the second time through their lineup, starting with Jose Altuve, who led off the fourth with a walk, advanced to third on a double by Michael Brantley, then scored on an RBI-groundout by Alex Bregman, the first run of the season to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

The reason for the quiet start for both offenses — an entertaining pitching matchup was unfolding against Chris Bassitt and Zack Greinke. While Bassitt allowed a run in the fourth, he was otherwise successful on the mound until the sixth, when he would be relieved after a one-out double followed by a walk. Both of those runs would eventually score, as later in the inning, Yordan Alvarez sent a fastball the opposite way off the left-field wall for a two-RBI double to extend the lead to 3-0.

Greinke cruises through six

For Houston, Greinke was on cruise control tossing six scoreless frames, during which he allowed only three hits and just one runner to make it to scoring position. It being just the first game of the season, Dusty Baker did not try to test him too far, going to his bullpen after six innings. Greinke's final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 82 P.

Enoli Paredes took over in the seventh, allowing Oakland's first run of the night and season after a leadoff double would come around on a sac-fly to make it a 3-1 game. Paredes would toss more pitches than he bargained for but eventually completed the frame with only the one run allowed.

Astros get the Opening Day victory

Michael Brantley took the run right back in the top of the eighth, leading the inning off with a solo home run to push the lead back to three runs. Alex Bregman made it back-to-back homers in the next at-bat, crushing one of his own 418 feet to the left-field stands, extending the lead to 5-1. Houston would load the bases on two walks and a pitch into Yordan Alvarez's back but left them stranded to keep the score there.

Joe Smith, who opted out of the 2020 season, made his return to regular-season play, coming in out of the bullpen for the bottom of the eighth. He faced four batters, getting two outs while allowing two hits before left-handed Blake Taylor would come in to counter lefty Matt Olson, who struck out to end the frame.

In the top of the ninth, former-Astro Reymin Guduan loaded the bases with no outs after a single and back-to-back walks to start things off. Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez would both bring in runs on a sac fly, Michael Brantley scored on a wild pitch, and when the dust settled, it was now an 8-1 game. Ryne Stanek was given the bottom of the ninth with the large lead, which he would complete to finish off the win.

Up Next: The second of this four-game series will be another late start in the Central time zone, getting underway at 8:40 PM on Friday. Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA in 2020) will look to build upon the success he found in 2020 for the Astros, starting on the mound opposite of Jesus Luzardo (3-2, 4.12 ERA) for the A's.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome