HOUSTON ASTROS 2018

Score a home run at Astros biggest opening day ever with these hot tips

Today should be one last chance to celebrate the 2017 title. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Steven Devadanam is editor of CultureMap/Houston. This article originally appeared there.

The day that Astros fans have been waiting for is here. Houston's opening day 2018 downtown promises to be packed, with the massive Astros Street Fest which runs from 1-5:30 pm (you must have a game ticket to gain access), not to mention the myriad watch parties happening all over town. 

If you're headed downtown, here are some last-minute reminders and tips to help you make the most of your opening day experience. 

Parking, parking, parking

If you're driving in, remember that the tens of thousands of downtown parking spaces — including on-street spaces, garages and surface lots — will get gobbled up quickly close to game time. This Downtown Interactive Parking Map shows visitors the best places to park according to destination and preferred lot type, and even offers parking reservations for some garages. Expect prices on opening day to be higher than those posted online.

Parking gets considerably more expensive the closer you get to Minute Maid Park. Garages and surface lots located west of Main St. will most likely be cheaper. Join the crowds and walk a few blocks to the stadium.

There are 3-hour time limits as well as some restrictions for on-street parking during weekdays, so make sure to read the signs before you park. (Street parking is free after 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and all day on Sunday.)

Hitch a ride

Expect a swarm of fans to use taxis, Uber, or Lyft — which is offering a promo code for the Astros opener, through April 8.

To get 20 percent off your LYFT rides (up to $5 off), use promo code ASTROSOPENER.

Greenlink
Take advantage of free rides to and from Minute Maid Park, and other downtown game day spots, with the Greenlink bus. The Orange Route, which runs Monday-Friday from 6:30 pm-midnight, Saturday from 9 am-midnight, and Sunday from 9 am-6 pm, has a stop located across from Minute Maid Park near Crawford and Texas, and picks up riders every 10 minutes.

METRORail

Speaking of buses, you can can hop on the METRORail to and from the game, with stops along the Green and Purple lines.

HoustonBCYCLE

The Houston BCYCLE bike share is a convenient transportation option when attending Astros games, with 15 stations downtown. The two stations are Crawford Island, four blocks south of Minute Maid Park (925 Crawford St.), and Rusk & Emanuel, just a few blocks east of the stadium (736 St. Emanuel St.).

Pre-game

There's no shortage of restaurants and bars close to Minute Maid Park, especially along Main Street and at Avenida Houston near the George R. Brown Convention Center — offering up stops for pre-and post-game meals and celebrations.

The no-frills Eighteen Twenty Lounge offers a low-key setting before the excitement of the game with comfortable couches, classic games and a wide selection behind the bar.

Across from Minute Maid Park, the ideally located HTX Fan Tavern boasts three bars, an abundance of televisions, and a state-of-the-art sound system for an immersive game day experience.

Stylish Italian restaurant Osso & Kristalla is not your average pre-game location, but fans can find ample patio seating, $5 Astros game day specials on select beers, and an assortment of delicious game day foods—plus it’s just steps from the park’s Union Station entrance

Downtown watch parties

For Houstonians who don’t have tickets to the game, several downtown hotspots are hosting watch parties.

Named after the Astros legend and Hall-of-Famer, Biggio’s is a two-story fan favorite inside the Marriott Marquis, boasting two 30-foot HD screens, leather recliners and ballpark-inspired fare. Saint Arnold Brewing Company kicks off this celebration at 11 am. Christian’s Tailgate on Congress is home to more than 40 televisions, and 30 beers on tap. La Cantina is downtown’s newest sports bar, with multiple 82-inch televisions, adjacent street taco specialists La Calle across the hall, and plenty of margaritas.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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