ARLINGTON -- Not too shabby for a No. 4 starter.Gerrit Cole, the fourth starter in the Astros' deep pitching rotation, performed like an ace Sunday afternoon, striking out 11 batters in seven innings and holding the Rangers to two hits and one run in his Astros debut in an 8-2
ARLINGTON -- Not too shabby for a No. 4 starter.
Gerrit Cole, the fourth starter in the Astros' deep pitching rotation, performed like an ace Sunday afternoon, striking out 11 batters in seven innings and holding the Rangers to two hits and one run in his Astros debut in an 8-2 win at Globe Life Park.
Cole, who had a career-high 21 swings and misses, gave up a first-inning homer to Joey Gallo before sending down 14 of the next 16 batters, including striking out the side in the fifth. He also struck out the side in the seventh.
"I thought he was exceptional," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He was in total control of the game and I think he finished even stronger than he started. His stuff was electrifying at the end of the game. I think he was executing pitches. He worked so meticulously through their lineup, a couple of different times with different ways of getting guys out. Just an excellent performance. What a great way to start his Astros career."
After striking out the side in the fifth, Cole escaped trouble in the sixth when the Astros turned an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to strand a runner at third, with a hard throw from shortstop Carlos Correa to first narrowly beating Nomar Mazara.
"That was a big double play there and it kept the pitch count in check," Cole said.
Cole, who followed Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel and All-Star Lance McCullers in the rotation, threw 102 pitches (53 fastballs) and topped out at 98.5 mph. McCullers struck out 10 batters on Saturday and, combined with Cole, marks the first time since May 25-26, 2016, that Astros starters posted back-to-back 10 strikeout games.
"This is high-end stuff across the board," Hinch said. "Gerrit would have pitched Opening Day for most teams or a lot of teams. To have him pitch the fourth game of the year is really indicative of the depth of this rotation."
The Astros trailed 1-0 before scoring twice in the fifth and sixth innings, and three times in the seventh to take a 7-1 lead. Houston won three of four games from the Rangers in its season-opening series and heads home for its home opener Monday.
Rangers starter Mike Minor allowed two runs and three hits in 4 2/3 innings, but the Astros took advantage of the Texas bullpen. Chris Martin allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning, and Alex Claudio was touched for three runs in the seventh.
The Astros' middle-infield combo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, who each had four hits in Saturday's 9-3 win, stayed hot Sunday. Altuve went 3-for-5 and is hitting .563 (9-for-16) this season, and Correa drove in a pair with an RBI double in the seventh. Designated hitter Evan Gattis also had three hits and three RBIs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fisher reels in Stassi: After wasting leadoff doubles in the third and fourth innings, Max Stassi drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and scored on a triple by Derek Fisher -- his first hit of the year. That broke the ice for the Astros' offense, which scored twice in the fifth and sixth and three times in the seventh to take a 7-1 lead.
Beating the odds: Gallo, who went 0-for-4 on Thursday when the Astros deployed a four-man outfield (Astros third baseman Alex Bregman was moved to left field), beat the same alignment in the first inning when he sent an opposite-field homer over Bregman's head to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. That was his first homer of the season.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve's seventh-inning single came on a pitch that was 2.06 feet from the center of the plate -- the farthest outside that a right-handed batter has gotten a hit on since the beginning of last season. Altuve reached out and poked the Claudio pitch into right field.
Astros first baseman Marwin Gonzalez was ejected by first-base umpire Jerry Meals in the middle of the eighth inning. Gonzalez, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, went out to play defense prior to the bottom of the eighth and was ejected by Meals after some sort of confrontation.
"What Jerry told me on the field was they didn't like his behavior on the field," Hinch said. "I don't know if they were arguing over Mexican restaurants in Houston or the best shopping experience, but they didn't agree."
The 2017 World Series championship banner will be unveiled prior to Monday's 6:20 p.m. CT home opener at Minute Maid Park against the Orioles. Charlie Morton, who won Game 7 of the World Series, will get the start for Houston.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.