ARLINGTON -- Justin Verlander was dominant for six scoreless innings, George Springer made history with his first swing of the season and the defending World Series champion Astros are off and running in 2018.
Springer achieved his feat on the third pitch of the game, belting a leadoff homer to start a season for the second year in a row and leading the Astros to a 4-1 Opening Day victory over the Rangers on Thursday afternoon at Globe Life Park.
"I'll never be disappointed in a win," manager AJ Hinch said. "We're trying to win a lot of games, and we needed to win today. It's a nice way to start the season."
Springer, leading off the first, hit a 2-0 pitch from Rangers starter Cole Hamels into the right-field seats. In doing so, he became the first player to hit a leadoff home run in the first inning on Opening Day in back-to-back seasons.
"Obviously, it's a big day for everybody and the first day of a long season," said Springer, who hit five home runs en route to being named World Series MVP last year. "There's some Opening Day anxiety, some excitement, so for us to come out and play the way we did and pitch the way we did ... It's a good day for us."
Verlander, making his 10th Opening Day start, held the Rangers scoreless through six innings. He allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five. He has now won six straight regular-season starts for Houston since being acquired from Detroit on Aug. 31 last year. He has a 0.90 ERA in those six starts.
"I don't really come into a game with expectations," Verlander said. "To come out victorious and help our team win and be able to throw a pretty good ballgame, that's what I'm happy with."
"Verlander is a tough pitcher," Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields said. "It's not like we were having bad at-bats. We were making good contact and just missing some pitches. I don't think this will kill our confidence. We know what we are able to do. They got good pitching. We'll take it as one game."
Jake Marisnick also homered for the Astros, who have now won six straight Opening Day games. The Rangers have lost five of their past six on Opening Day.
"It felt good," said Marisnick, who missed last year's playoff run with a broken finger. "We were working on a lot in spring, and toward the end it started feeling good, and to come out there and help the team win was great."
Hamels, in his fourth Opening Day start, had to fight some erratic command through the first three innings. He ended up going 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits, with four walks and seven strikeouts.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Springer gets it started: Springer, who hit five homers in the final four games of last year's World Series, set the tone for Houston with the leadoff homer. It was the 100th career homer for Springer, who has nine homers and 24 RBIs in his past 22 games against Texas. He hit nine leadoff homers last season, a club record.
"It was a great tone-setter for the season," Hinch said. "It worked last season. It was a great start to this season. It just provides so much energy and a boost to the dugout. The smile on his face rounding the bases ... We're up 1-0 within a couple of minutes of the season starting. That's a pretty good way to start the year."
Collision leads to run:Brian McCann led off the third with a roller that zig-zagged up the first-base line. The ball stayed fair as Texas first baseman Joey Gallo fielded it and tried to make the tag. But he collided with Hamels as he fielded the ball and lost track of McCann. Gallo missed the tag, and McCann was safe. Hamels then walked the next two batters, and Jose Altuve followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who started on Opening Day for Houston the previous three years, will get the ball in the 7:05 p.m. CT game against Texas on Friday at Globe Life Park. Keuchel went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts last year.
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