Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
In a long-awaited return to baseball, the Houston Astros were able start the shortened 2020 season with a win at home over the visiting Mariners. Justin Verlander allowed a couple of solo home runs in an otherwise solid start, earning him his first win of the year after Houston's offense backed him up with some strong middle innings.
Final Score: Astros 8, Mariners 2.
Record: 1-0, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (1-0, 3.00 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Marco Gonzalez (0-1, 6.23 ERA).
Astros and Mariners trade runs early
After a quiet first inning of the game, both in terms of offense and the eerily silent, empty stadium, the Mariners struck first with Kyle Lewis crushing a ball to the train tracks in the top of the second inning off of Justin Verlander.
Josh Reddick notched Houston's first hit of the night to lead off the bottom of the third, drilling a ball to the right-center field wall for a double. He moved to third on a groundball for the first out, then scored on an RBI-single by Martin Maldonado, the first run of the season to tie the game 1-1.
In the top of the fourth, with Verlander looking to have settled in, Seattle got their second hit and second solo home run as Kyle Seager pushed the Mariners back in front 2-1.
Big fifth inning pushes Houston ahead
In the bottom of the fifth, Aledmys Diaz led the inning off with a single, then moved to third on a defensive error before scoring to tie the game 2-2 on an RBI-single by Jose Altuve. That set up a big inning of offense with Alex Bregman hitting a go-ahead RBI-single to make it 3-2 before Michael Brantley launched a three-run home run to extend the new lead 6-2.
They added even further to the lead in the bottom of the next inning, getting a one-out double by Abraham Toro. He came in for Aledmys Diaz in the DH spot after Diaz left with discomfort, a word that is all too familiar to Astros fans over the last year or so. Toro scored on Maldonado's second RBI, a single to extend the lead to five runs at 7-2.
Verlander meanwhile was able to limit Seattle to just their two solo home runs and one other hit over his six innings of work, starting his season off with a decent game to earn his first win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7K, 2 HR.
Two debuts out of the bullpen close things out
Chris Devenski was the first reliever to take the mound, working around a two-out double by striking out the side in the top of the seventh, while Carlos Correa drove in his first run on an RBI-double to make it 8-2 in the bottom half.
Blake Taylor made his major-league debut out of the bullpen in the top of the eighth, and he too was able to keep Seattle off the board with a quick nine-pitch inning and held the lead at six runs. That set up Enoli Paredes, who was also making his debut, to close things out in the ninth, and he did so as Houston grabbed a 1-0 start to the year.
Up Next: Game two of this four-game set between the Astros and Mariners will be in Houston tomorrow at 3:10 PM Central. The starting pitching matchup will be Taijuan Walker for Seattle, going up against Lance McCullers Jr. for Houston. McCullers will be making his first start since 2018 after sitting out the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery.
Coming off a huge upset win over the Bengals this Sunday, CJ Stroud is now firmly in the MVP conversation with the team at 5-4, one game behind the Jaguars in the AFC South.
Stroud also leads the NFL in passing yards per game, and TD to Int ratio. And man is this offense fun to watch. Nobody pushes the ball down the field more effectively than Stroud and the Texans. So let's give some credit to the pass catchers.
With wide receiver Nico Collins missing the game due to injury, Stroud connected with Noah Brown 7 times for 172 yards. Brown's performance over the last 2 weeks has been incredible.
In fact, the Texans have 2 of the top 3 receivers when it comes to yards per catch. Brown is first with 20.9. Nico Collins is third at 17.5. Brown is also 10th in the league when it comes to yards per game (87.8).
One of the other factors that helped the Texans secure a victory this Sunday was their improvement in the running game. The Bengals struggle to stop the run, and Devin Singletary was able to capitalize with 150 yards on 30 attempts.
Finally, let's discuss the defense that was able to go into Cincinnati and beat Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase. DeMeco's crew was able to sack Burrow 4 times, and Sheldon Rankins had three of those sacks. He also just missed another with about 3 minutes left in the first quarter.
The game actually shouldn't have been this close, as Stroud made a big mistake trying to force a ball to Tank Dell late in the fourth quarter, which resulted in an interception.
Thankfully, the Texans were able to keep the Bengals out of the end zone as Tyler Boyd dropped a touchdown, which led to a Bengals field goal.
It sure is nice to be able to learn from mistakes while still winning the game. And without that poor decision, we don't get to see Stroud finish another game-winning drive, leading his team to victory in back-to-back weeks.
Be sure to watch the video above as we break down what this win means for Stroud and the Texans moving forward.
Subscribe to SportsMap Texans on YouTube for our latest content.
Watch Texans on Tap (a Texans podcast) every Monday on YouTube.