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Astros Opening Day: Megan Thee Stallion, Mark Wahlberg, Travis Scott, and Cody Johnson star

Astros Opening Day: Megan Thee Stallion, Mark Wahlberg, Travis Scott, and Cody Johnson star
Megan Thee Stallion threw out the first pitch. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Seems like only yesterday that our Houston Astros were partying downtown at their 2022 World Series Championship parade. But in a blink, the team returned to Minute Maid Park to kick off Opening Day of the 2023 season on Thursday, March 30 against the Chicago White Sox.

CultureMap was there as our world champions were joined by superstars Mark Wahlberg and Cody Johnson and hometown favorites Megan Thee Stallion and Travis Scott (Hot Girl Megan threw out the first pitch). Wahlberg, a close friend of third base hero Alex Bregman, called Breggy his "favorite Yankee Killer" and wished the new dad and champion a very happy happy birthday (he turned 29 the same day).

Astros owner Jim Crane and wife Whitney literally rode in with the World Championship trophies and joined manager Dusty Baker, Jr. who asked the eager crowd: “Are you ready for another one?” — to an enthusiastic roar. After a big reveal of the new season slogan “Ready 2 Reign” and appearances by Wahlberg, the Cranes, a ceremonial first pitch by Megan, it was game on.

Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez threw five innings, giving up no runs in only 85 pitches and four strikeouts. The game stayed scoreless until the 7th inning, when Yordan Alvarez scored from third base on a wild pitch. White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease threw seven innings and recorded 10 strikeouts, whole tight defense from the 'Stros kept the game scoreless through seven innings — until White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal hit a solo home run in the eighth.

The Astros gave up two more runs in the top of the ninth, then came a mammoth, 442-foot upper-deck home run in the bottom of the inning by star slugger Yordan Alvarez. His blast wasn't enough, however, as the Sox bested the Houston Astros 3-2. Historically, the Astros have won 10 straight Opening Day games.

Broadcast on ESPN, the game was speedy thanks in part to the new pitch clock, starting at 6:08 pm and ending just before 9 pm. Fans can catch the team again at 7:10 pm Friday, March 31 against the Sox as the Astros will receive their World Series rings. The four-game home stand against the Sox runs through Sunday, April 2.

--- Additional reporting by Marco Torres/Marco From Houston

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Justin Verlander is heading to the injured list. Composite Getty Image.

Astros ace Justin Verlander missed his start over the weekend due to neck discomfort, which had many fans concerned. The last Houston pitcher (Cristian Javier) to miss time with the same injury would end up out for the season and having to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Fortunately, it doesn't look like that will be the case for JV, and the team didn't anticipate having to put Verlander on IR. They hoped he would be able to start Thursday's game in Chicago.

But manager Joe Espada told the Astros flagship station on Tuesday that his progress “is slower than we expected.”

Fast-forward a few hours and JV is headed to the IL, with Nick Hernandez joining the club from Sugar Land.

Hopefully, this is just a short stint on the injured list for Verlander. Quite frankly, the Astros are running out of big league caliber starting pitching options.

One has to wonder, how many more injuries the team can sustain in 2024? The injury bug is biting hard, and the club is currently nine games behind Seattle in the AL West.

Up next

Framber Valdez takes the mound for Houston against the White Sox on Tuesday night.

The Athletic's Chandler Rome shares some possibilities the Astros might explore to replace Verlander in the post below.

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