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Astros Dominate Rays on Opening Day; Rangers Walloped by Cubs

Verlander outpitches Snell, Astros cruise past Rays 5-1


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Justin Verlander outpitched Blake Snell in a rare opening-day matchup between a reigning Cy Young Award winner and runner-up, helping the Houston Astros begin the season Thursday with a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

George Springer homered on opening day for the third straight year. Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve also went deep for the Astros against Snell, the AL Cy Young recipient who won 21 games and led the American League in ERA in 2018.

Verlander allowed a leadoff homer to Austin Meadows before dominating a mostly young Tampa Bay lineup featuring just one player _ center fielder Kevin Kiermaier _ who started for the Rays on opening day last year.

The 36-year-old right-hander, fresh off signing a three-year contract that added $66 million in guaranteed money for 2020 and 2021, limited the Rays to one run and three hits over seven innings before a crowd of 25,025 at Tropicana Field _ Tampa Bay’s 14th consecutive sellout for a home opener.

Verlander, who improved to 4-1 in 11 opening-day starts, struck out nine and only gave up one hit _ Yandy Diaz’s seventh-inning double. He allowed three runners total after walking a batter and plunking another in the second.

Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless eighth, and Roberto Osuna worked a perfect ninth inning to finish a four-hitter for the Astros, who after winning their first World Series in 2017 were knocked out by Boston in last year’s AL Championship Series.

Springer gave Astros ace all the offensive support he would need with a three-run homer in the third off Snell, who yielded five runs and six hits over six innings of his first opening day start.

The 26-year-old lefty, who signed a $50 million, five-year contract this month, walked two batters ahead of Springer’s home run and finished with three strikeouts.

With the NL Cy Young winner Jacob de Grom facing Washington’s Max Scherzer earlier Thursday, Snell vs. Verlander became the fourth instance of a reigning Cy Young recipient facing the runner-up for the award on opening day.

The other two matchups both occurred in 1979, when Ron Guidry (Yankees) faced runner-up Mike Caldwell (Brewers) and NL winner Gaylord Perry (Padres) faced Burt Hooton (Dodgers).


Astros: RHP’s Lance McCullers Jr. (right elbow surgery) and Joe Smith (left Achilles’ tendon surgery) were both placed on the 10-day injured list. Meanwhile, Correa said before the game that his injury is “nothing major” and that he hopes to be ready to play some time before the end of the four-game series.

“I’m hoping so,” Correa said. “Hopefully I’ll wake up (Friday) feeling a lot better when I swing.”

Rays: To finalize the opening day roster, 3B Matt Duffy (left hamstring tightness), LHP Anthony Banda (Tommy John surgery) and RHP Jose De Leon (Tommy John surgery) were placed on the 10-day injured list.


RHP Charlie Morton, 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts last season with Houston, will make his Tampa Bay debut Friday night against the Astros and RHP Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA in 2018). Signed to a $30 million, two-year contract as a free agent by the Rays, Morton won Game 7 in both the AL Championship Series and World Series in 2017. “It’s a group of guys I care a lot about,” Morton said. “To pitch against them, I fully expect to feel some emotions.”


Baez hits 2 HRs as Cubs open season with 12-4 win at Rangers


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Javier Baez homered twice, Jon Lester won for the first time in his last five opening day starts and the Chicago Cubs began the season with a 12-4 victory Thursday at Texas, spoiling the debut of new Rangers manager Chris Woodward.

Kris Bryant added a two-run shot for the Cubs, opening their fifth season under manager Joe Maddon after four playoff appearances in a row that included the 2016 World Series title.

Baez hit 34 homers and led the National League with 111 RBIs last season, when he finished second in MVP voting and was the starting second baseman in the All-Star Game.

With Addison Russell completing his 40-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, Baez opened this season as the starting shortstop for the Cubs. Barring no postponements, Russell could be eligible to return in early May.

The Cubs led 7-2 in the fifth inning after Baez greeted reliever Jesse Chavez with a three-run homer on the right-hander’s first pitch. That was an inning after Baez hit a solo shot, when he reached out almost one-handed to pull an 82 mph breaking pitch from Mike Minor (0-1) into the left-field seats.

Texas was down by 10 runs before Nomar Mazara’s two-run homer with two outs in the ninth. The eight-run loss still matched its most lopsided ever in a season opener.

Woodward, the 42-year-old former utility infielder who played 12 big league seasons, was the third base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers the past three seasons _ and last two World Series.

Elvis Andrus, the 30-year-old shortstop and the longest-tenured Rangers player starting his 11th season, hit a two-run homer and had three of the four hits allowed by Lester.

Lester (1-0) struck out three while throwing 98 pitches over six innings to win his first opening day start since 2013 with the Red Sox. The lefty lost Boston’s 2014 opener, and lost his debut with the Cubs in 2015 before no-decisions the last two years.

Minor, the only holdover from last season’s rotation, made his first career opening day start. The left-hander permitted six runs and five hits over 4 2/3 innings.

Minor and six Rangers relievers, including two making their big league debuts, combined to allow 13 hits and eight walks.


Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish, after throwing a bullpen, said the blister on his ring finger is healing and he will be ready for his first start of the season Saturday.

Rangers: LHP Yohander Mendez (strained elbow ligament) was put on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to March 25. The 24-year-old rookie is expected to miss the first half of the season.


Cubs: Darvish, who started his major league career with Texas in 2012 after seven pro seasons in Japan, pitches against the Rangers for the first time since they traded him in 2017.

Rangers: Lance Lynn’s only previous appearance at the Rangers’ home ballpark was as a rookie with St. Louis in the 2011 World Series. The right-hander on Saturday makes his first start for Texas since signing a $30 million, three-year deal as a free agent in December.

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Posted by on Mar 29 2019. Filed under Sports.
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