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Astros hope grueling stretch serves as springboard

HOUSTON -- The Astros' schedule coming out of the gate isn't easy, starting with a homestand against the high-payroll Yankees and Angels. From there, they'll make road trips to Toronto and Arlington, which means the Astros could be challenged to get off to a good start.

"I think it would be extremely important for us to get off to a good start," manager Bo Porter said. "You look at the way Spring Training went and the energy we played with, I believe if we bring that same energy into the season, we'll do well."

The Astros won their season opener a year ago before losing six in a row and finishing April with an 8-19 record. They started surprisingly well in 2012, going 22-23, but saw their season come undone when they won just eight games in July and August combined. They started 0-5 in '11 and 0-8 in '10.

"We're healthy, which is key," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We had a good spring and we're coming off a nice run at the end of spring, and hopefully we carry that into the season. Obviously, the Yankees and Angels are two high-payroll teams and good teams with a lot of experienced players we're facing right out of the gate.

"We're as ready as we'll be. We have something to prove. If we can get out there in April and have a good month, it will calm a lot of fears."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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