• Brian L. Barefield

Some Habits Are Worth Keeping

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

There is a saying that was told to me as a child that stated if you continue to do something over and over again it becomes a habit. I guess the players for the Houston Astros have heard that same statement at the beginning of the season since joining the American League in 2013 because they have grown accustomed to winning Opening Day games.

For the ninth consecutive time, the Astros won their opener which ties the longest streak in the modern era joining the St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners and New York Mets who have all done it since the 1900’s. Houston (1-0) defeated the reigning American League West Champions Oakland A’s (0-1) 8-1. It was the second year in a row that the Astros put eight runs on the board to start the season.

“You always want to win that first one,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker during his post-game press conference. “You always got to get that first one under your belt.”

Astros right-handed starter Zack Greinke (1-0) took the mound on Thursday night and pitched six scoreless innings allowing only three hits with four strikeouts. It was the first career win on Opening Day in five tries for Greinke.

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

“I felt like I was getting tired a little in the fourth inning, but all my pitches were still good, so I guess that was better than last year,” said Greinke who made his 460th start of his career which leads all active day MLB pitchers. “Today I kept my pitches sharp and located them good.”

After three scoreless innings by both teams, Houston was finally able to get on the board in the top of the fourth inning when third baseman Alex Bregman hit an RBI groundout to drive in second baseman Jose Altuve from third base to take a 1-0 lead in front of a crowd of over 10,00 fans in the stands at Oakland Coliseum. It was the first game that both ball clubs played in front of fans since 2019 due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

The Astros would strike again in the top of the sixth inning after Bregman and Kyle Tucker scored off of designated hitter Yordan Alvarez doubled to left field to clear the bases giving Houston a 3-0 lead. The former 2019 AL Rookie of the Year looked good in his return to action for the first time after being put on the IL last season to have right knee surgery.

Houston would put the game away for good in the top of the eighth inning when outfielder Michael Brantley stepped to the plate and launched a pitch over the right field wall which was his third straight Opening Day home run. Brantley, who went 3-for-4 from the plate wasn’t finished celebrating with his teammates in the dugout before Alex Bregman hit a homer over the left field wall to push the lead to 5-1.

“It’s all about seeing the ball, tracking the ball, and slowing the ball down,” Brantley said. “I used Spring Training to get ready for Opening Day.”

The Astros will take on the A’s in the second game of a four-game series on Friday. First pitch is at 8:40 p.m. CST.

Photo Credit/Houston Astros

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