Astros seal home opener with gold-plated win

April 3rd, 2018

HOUSTON -- A championship banner was unveiled, World Series highlights were played on the scoreboard and an emotional ceremonial pitch was thrown. And if that wasn't enough to rekindle memories of 2017 for the Astros, starting pitcher Charlie Morton was in postseason form.
Morton, who won Game 7 of both the American League Championship Series and World Series, threw six scoreless innings in his first start of the regular season to lead the Astros to a 6-1 win over the Orioles in the series opener Monday night.
"It's a big moment for the city so I'm glad I did all right," Morton said. "I was a little amped up. There was as lot of energy, and the crowd was loud. It was awesome."
The Astros, playing their home opener at Minute Maid Park, celebrated their first World Series championship during a festive pregame ceremony in which retired first-base coach Rich Dauer -- the former Orioles player -- threw out the first pitch. An emotional Dauer, who nearly died in the moments following the Astros' World Series parade, sobbed as he took the mound.

The Astros quickly got down to business and won their sixth consecutive home opener.
"We're enjoying the memories of wearing gold-letter jerseys, unveiling the banner, we'll get the rings tomorrow," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "They can compartmentalize pretty well. I'm proud of that about this team. We show up to play and we're going to play the whole game and we're going to compete well, and our guys keep coming at the opponent."
The Astros came out swinging against Orioles starter Chris Tillman, with and starting the game with back-to-back doubles. That was a sign of things to come for Tillman, who gave up four runs, four walks and seven hits in four-plus innings. , who moved from first to shortstop after two innings when left with a bruised toe, socked his first homer of the season, which started a three-run fourth that put Houston ahead, 4-0.­­

"I love the fact that as soon as something happens, what do I do? I turned to Marwin and say, 'Go play shortstop,'" Hinch said. "He goes and makes a couple of really good plays and shows up to work."
Morton held the Orioles to three hits and struck out six while throwing 91 pitches to extend the Astros' run of strong starting pitching to begin the season. With every pitcher having made one start, Houston starters have a 1.78 ERA.
"He was exceptional," Hinch said. "I know I keep using that word with our starting rotation, but I thought he did a great job of making a few adjustments as he found the strike zone as the game got underway. That was pretty electrifying stuff again by a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, and he mixed in a couple of good split-changes and didn't throw as many breaking balls as he normally does. He made some big pitches to end the outing, and I was very happy how he handled the whole night."

Leave 'em loaded: The Orioles loaded the bases in the second inning on a walk, a hit batter and a two-out walk. Morton bore down against No. 9 hitter and got him to hit a line drive right to Gonzalez at first base to end the inning. That began a stretch in which Morton sent down 13 of the final 16 Orioles hitters he faced.

Reddick gets on the board: snapped an 0-for-8 funk to start the season with a seventh-inning single. Reddick, who followed the lead of St. Louis outfielder and took to Twitter pregame to beg for a hit, also had some help from Hinch, who rubbed his bat prior to the single.
"It worked," Reddick said. "Everybody was [tweeting] around the league who hadn't got a hit. Between Dexter Fowler and , I'd figured I'd jump on board and see what works. Here we are. I wasn't too panicked. We were eight at-bats into the season. I knew I wasn't going to go 0-for-500."

"You're only as good as your next day's starting pitcher, and ours is really good." -- Hinch, on giving the ball to on Tuesday
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Verlander, who threw six scoreless innings Thursday at the Rangers, makes his first home start of the season when the Astros face the Orioles on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park. The Astros will be given their 2017 World Series championship rings prior to the game.
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