MLB OPENING DAY

For openers, Astros knock off Rangers 4-1 to begin title defense

For openers, Astros knock off Rangers 4-1 to begin title defense
Justin Verlander was on his game in the opener in Arlington. Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

A huge American flag in the outfield. Watching an amazing flyover after the national anthem. The cheer from the crowd the first time the home team takes the field, followed by the first “play ball!” of the season. Is there anything better than MLB opening day? Just one thing: a win.

The Astros started their World Series defense with a 4-1 win over the Rangers in Arlington on Thursday afternoon. They were led by a strong outing from ace Justin Verlander, who had run support thanks to RBIs from George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Jake Marisnick.

That RBI from Springer came on the third pitch in the game, getting a season-starting leadoff home run for the second year in a row, the only player in MLB history who can make that claim. The dinger made it 1-0 Astros right off the bat, a lead they extended in the third inning on a sacrifice fly from Altuve to make it 2-0.

They quickly extended their lead to 3-0 on a solo shot from Jake Marisnick in the third, and the score would stay that way deep into the game thanks to a strong first start from Verlander. Verlander went six full innings, throwing 90 pitches which resulted in only four hits for the Rangers, no runs, and five strikeouts.

Chris Devenski got his first inning of work in the seventh, a nearly perfect inning where he blanked the Rangers with two strikeouts. In the top of the eighth, Correa drove in Altuve, who scored from first on a great read on the hit paired with his amazing speed, bringing the score to 4-0 heading into the eighth.

Brad Peacock took over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, throwing a scoreless inning with one strikeout. Ken Giles looked to bounce back from a poor postseason in 2017 and start 2018 on a good note when he came in to close the game in the bottom of the ninth, but instead gave up a leadoff double to Elvis Andrus who would tag on a fly ball then score on a wild pitch to get the Rangers their first run of the game and make it 4-1. Giles eventually got the final out with a strikeout, sealing the Astros' first win of the season.

Next up: The Astros will continue the four-game series in Arlington tomorrow through Sunday before heading home for the home opener on Monday. Stay tuned to SportsMap for our weekly recaps of the Astros all season.

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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