The Houston Astros seem to be the kings of Opening Day. With a 2-0 win over the Cleveland Indians tonight, Houston has now won 3 straight openers. Dallas Keuchel looked very good on the mound in his first Opening Day start pitching 7.0 innings and giving up no runs on three hits and four strikeouts. Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie provided the only scoring in the game with Altuve scoring on a George Springer single in the sixth. Lowrie then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Marisnick in the eighth. Corey Kluber gets the loss pitching 7.1 innings and giving up two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts.
Three snap judgements:
1. I said there wouldn’t be much offense in this game with the caliber of pitching on the mound tonight between the two starters. Kluber and Keuchel combined for 14.1 innings pitched with two runs scored on six hits and 11 strikeouts. Kluber used the offspeed stuff (namely a great slider) to setup a very good fastball that sat in the low to mid 90’s all night. While Keuchel doesn’t blow the fastball by anyone, he can put it on any spot Castro asks of him. Then goes with the slider to put guys away.
2. The Astros bullpen is going to be ten times better this year than they were a year ago. Tonight they had two innings of work and did a splendid job for Keuchel. In 2014, the Astros had the worst bullpen ERA (over 4.0) in Major League Baseball. Luke Gregerson, and Pat Neshek will help some of those young guys in the bullpen settle down.
3. While we didn’t get a great look at the hitters tonight because of how good both pitching staffs were today, the Houston hitters have to be better for them to have a realistic chance in the AL West. I think the hitters will be fine, but the ‘Stros can’t have the 3-6 hitters all go 0-3 and expect to win most nights. It’s a good thing the defense played lights out behind Keuchel all night.
It’s just one game, but this is the first time in a long time that I’ve been really excited about the season as it comes to the Houston Astros. Dallas Keuchel got the season started on the right foot on the mound, and the bullpen played really well the last two innings of this one. While I don’t think we should be penciling the Astros for a wild card spot, this could be a very exciting year at Minute Maid Park. Houston fans, the almost decade long rebuild is almost over, kind of.