PLAY BALL!

Astros tickets now on sale, here's everything you need to know

Baseball is right around the corner. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Astros haven't had fans sitting for games inside Minute Maid Park since the team's heartbreaking World Series loss nearly a year and a half ago.

But with a shortened MLB season under their belt, not to mention relaxed restrictions statewide, the 'Stros are ready to welcome their fans back, despite setting capacity limits to no more than 50 percent of the ballpark for their first month.

Single-game tickets go on sale at 9 am Wednesday, March 24 for home games in April. Tickets can be purchased through the Astros website or by calling 1-877-9ASTROS (927-8767).So, what can fans expect as the Astros settle into another season played during the pandemic? Here's what the team has announced.

What tickets are on sale?

Tickets are available in all sections, including some sections with physically distanced seating pods.

Seats adjacent to the field will be sold, as they have for a standard season. Seats adjacent to the dugouts and bullpens will be separated from the field by plexiglass.

What capacity is in place for 2021?

To keep guests physically distanced while in the stadium, Astros games will not exceed 50-percent capacity during the month of April.

What matchups are on sale?

The Astros will re-open Minute Maid Park to the general public on April 8, for the Astros Home Opener vs. the Oakland Athletics, with a first pitch set for 7:10 pm.

The Home Opener is the first game of a three-game series between the division rival Astros and A's (April 8-10).

Houston will also host the Detroit Tigers for three (April 12-14), Los Angeles Angels for four (April 22-25) and the Seattle Mariners for four (April 26-29) in the month.

Are masks required?

Masks are required at all times within Minute Maid Park unless actively eating or drinking. Eating and drinking is only permitted at your ticketed seat (not the general concourse).

To find out about the bag policy and what to expect when entering the ballpark, continue reading on our news partner ABC13.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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