ONCE IN A LIFETIME

Fred Faour: Astros opening day will be something truly special

The Astros return to Minute Maid Park tonight. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Programming note: The Blitz will be broadcasting live today at 500 Crawford, right across the street from Minute Maid. Please stop by and say hello if you are in the neighborhood for the game.

Today will be a banner day -- pun intended -- for Houston sports fans. It is the home opener for the Astros, and while it is just one game out of 162, today will be special. It will be the first game at Minute Maid since the thrilling World Series win over the Dodgers. There will be other opening days. There will likely be more opening days after World Series titles. This team likely has one or two more in it if they can keep the band together.

But there will never be another opener like this one -- the first one after the first World Series win in franchise history. It will be a chance to relive the moment one last time.

It’s different, because this city has been a sports wasteland when it comes to titles. Sure, there have been Dynamo and Comets titles, and if you go back far enough (even before I was born), the Oilers won an AFL title. But even that was a secondary league at the time.

Among the big three, it’s been the Rockets winning back to back titles, and now the Astros. That’s it. There are those who claim the Rockets titles were tainted because Michael Jordan was on a hiatus, but they conveniently forget Jordan was back and playing at a high level the second title. His Bulls just weren’t good enough.

The Astros have no such false asterisks. They made their way through perhaps the three most famous franchises in baseball, and certainly the three with the biggest payrolls. They took out a solid Boston team, then knocked off the Yankees and a powerhouse Dodger team. They avoided the Indians -- perhaps the best team in the AL last season -- but then the Indians could not beat the Yankees.

So the Astros earned that title. And the scary thing? On paper, they look even better this season. The rotation will be stronger, with a full year of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Cole is the fourth starter. World Series hero Charlie Morton is the fifth starter. The bullpen looks better, too. And there is room for improvement with young hitters like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

Morton will fittingly get the ball tonight.

Yes, the Astros have already opened the season. They are 3-1 after a series in Arlington against the lowly Rangers. MLB should have let the Astros open at home. But that’s OK. Tonight will be fun. Amazing, in fact.

No opening day ever again will be as meaningful.

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The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

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