Astros take season-opening series over Mariners


Despite losing their 15-game win streak over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, the Houston Astros bounced back to take the final game of the series and open their season with a 3-1 record.

Michael Brantley and Martin Maldonado led the offensive onslaught that helped Houston outscore Seattle 29-16, driving in a combined 12 runs and scoring four runs themselves.

The starting pitchers from the first two games, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr., each completed six innings of work and struck out seven and six batters, respectively.

Toward the end of Sunday’s game, it was reported that Verlander was going to be shut down for the season with an injury after complaining of forearm stiffness, but manager Dusty Baker led off the postgame press conference saying he’s only out for two weeks.

“We know it’s a forearm strain, he’s being seen by the doctors so he’ll be shut down for a couple of weeks and we’ll see from there,” Baker said Sunday. “It happened (Friday) early in the game, he said he felt fine, you saw he was throwing the ball great. Kind of a shock to all of us.”

Verlander was placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to July 25, and the Astros recalled Nivaldo Rodriguez and selected Brandon Bielak to the Major League roster ahead of Monday’s game.

Bielak said his Monday started like any other in Corpus Christi but it ended up being the day his dream came true.

“Pitching coordinator Bill Murphy FaceTimed me around 9:30, I was just getting up about to do my daily routine to go pitch live in Corpus,” Bielak said after Monday’s game. “I asked in the group chat what the plan was for breakfast and Murph says, ‘Would you mind helping out with breakfast this morning?’ Then he said, ‘Just kidding, pack your bags. You’re going to Houston.’”

His number was called out of the bullpen after starter Josh James finished just three innings of work and provided three and a third innings, allowing four hits and two runs, although only one was earned, while striking out four to earn his first Major League victory in his first try.

Four other relievers, as well as infielder Josh Taylor, made their Major League debut in the season-opening series: Brandon Bailey, Christian Javier, Blake Taylor and Enoli Paredes.

Baker feels as though the quick ramp-up to the season has affected some of the Astros’ pitchers with Austin Pruitt, Jose Urquidy and Brad Peacock starting the season on the injured list only to have Ryan Pressly and Chris Devenski also get shut down earlier this week.

“A lot of the hitters are ready in about three weeks or so but pitchers need that extra time. They need that five or six weeks of spring training,” Baker said Monday night. “This has been abbreviated and you see it all around baseball, it’s everywhere. I’m just hoping we learn our lesson by this; couldn’t be helped because of the coronavirus but I’m just hoping we don’t see any more injuries around the league, especially on our team.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers came in for a two-game set before Houston embarks on its first road trip of the season to Los Angeles, to play the Angels, Arizona and Oakland.


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