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.
- In a week that is in large part about being thankful for the good things we are fortunate to have in life, Texans’ fans can have an extra helping of glee. After three years of enduring an absolute turkey of a franchise, it is certainly a football blessing to have the Texans gobble up three straight wins to get to 6-4 and make it a legitimately big game Sunday versus 7-3 Jacksonville at NRG Stadium.
Should the Texans beat the Jaguars for a second time, they sweep the season series and take over first place in the AFC South. Raise your hands if back in early September you had this as a likely scenario. Hands down liars! With six more games to play after Sunday it’s not as if the Texans clinch the division with a win, but it clearly positions them to take the division and go from last to first as the Jaguars did from 2021 to last season. Among the Texans’ final six games, only Cleveland is an opponent currently with a winning record. The Broncos have won four in a row to enter the wild card race at 5-5, but that game is in Houston. Then the Texans play at the offensively impotent Jets and the dead in the water Titans. The Deshaun Watson-less Browns are here Christmas Eve before the Texans get their second game with the Titans, ahead of the season finale at the presently 5-5 Colts. That is a very favorable schedule. With a win over the Jags Sunday, the Texans finishing 11-6 becomes very plausible. That would force the Jaguars to win five of their final six games, which include playing at Cleveland and a home date vs. the Ravens. Jacksonville’s other four games project as wins: home games vs. the no-Joe Burrow Bengals and the horrible Panthers, road games at Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
On the flip side, if the Jaguars come here and win Sunday, they come relatively close to putting away the division. The Jags’ would leave with a two game lead, and a split with the Texans would give the Jacksonville the tiebreaker via better divisional record, unless they somehow lose at Tennessee in their season finale.
Beating the Jags again doesn’t figure to be as easy as it turned out to be for the Texans in Florida back in September. The Texans won 37-17 despite being outgained 404 yards to 366. After getting out to a 17-0 lead, the Texans saw Jacksonville draw within 17-10 with 4:35 to go in the third quarter. Then Andrew Beck shockingly rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return. Thereafter the outcome was never in doubt. The Texans were turnover-free in the game, the Jaguars coughed it up twice. With C.J. Stroud coming off of a three interceptions game you know taking care of the ball is a point of re-emphasis this week.
The Jaguars are a perfect 4-0 on the road, one of the road games being a road trip not a true road game. They beat the Buffalo Bills in London.
If C.J Stroud opted to take the rest of the season off, he’d still have the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award just about sewn up. Fellow freshman Texan Tank Dell is in the hunt for runner-up. The dynamic 165 pound former Houston Cougar has six touchdown catches. That equals the rookie TD haul total of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins combined. Johnson had four TD grabs as a rookie in 2003, Hopkins just two as a rook in 2013. Dell is on pace for 10 touchdown catches. The schedule being 17 games now impacts this stuff of course, but Dell missed the Saints game while in concussion protocol. In the Super Bowl era, only nine first year wide receivers have cracked double digits in TD receptions. Randy Moss blew away the field with his epic 17 TD catch rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. Next with 13 are Ja’Marr Chase two years go with the Bengals and the begoggled John Jefferson with the Chargers in 1978. Odell Beckham and Mike Evans caught 12 apiece as rookies, Mike Williams 11. Calvin Ridley, Daryl Turner, and Sammy White each snared 10. White did it in a 14 game schedule.
Rams rookie fifth round pick Puka Nacua is Dell’s chief competition for rookie wideout of the year. Nacua is on pace for a whopping 117 receptions for more than 1500 yards.
A Thanksgiving-related note/quasi prediction. If the Texans ultimately finish second in the division, here’s a guess that they play at the Arlington Cowboys Turkey Day 2024. The Texans next season will play a game at the NFC East team that finishes in its division this year in the same place the Texans do theirs. The Cowboys are going to be second behind Philadelphia in the NFC East. C.J. Stroud’s arrival means no more zero nationally televised games for the Texans. A Texans-Cowboys holiday tilt makes sense. The Texans have played two Thanksgiving Day games, both at Detroit.
Looking for more Texans coverage?
Texans on Tap is the weekly Texan-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule a first video segment goes up Monday on the SportsMapTexans YouTube channel.