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Keeping momentum not easy, but essential for Astros

After third straight Opening Day win, club knows April is a key month

HOUSTON -- The Astros have yet to lose an Opening Day game as a member of the American League after beating the Indians, 2-0, on Monday night for their third consecutive season-opening win. Finding a way to build on those good vibes from Opening Day, however, has been a challenge.

After assembling a team that has a shot to be the Astros' first with a winning record since 2008, general manager Jeff Luhnow said a strong start in April would go a long way toward the club reaching that goal.

"It's one of those things that's hard to engineer, but we certainly would like to get off to a good start," Luhnow said. "We have not done that in the last couple of years, and getting off to a good start carries the momentum into the summer months and gets the fans there, and there's a virtuous cycle that emerges if you get off to a good start.

"It's a long season and we know we're going to have peaks and valleys, but certainly it would be our hope that we get off to a good start and maintain it as long as possible."

Houston hasn't had a winning record at the end of April since going 16-8 in the month in 2006. From 2007-14, they were 76-126 (.376) in March/April, including 19 losses the past two years after winning on Opening Day. The Astros beat the Rangers on Opening Day in 2013 and dropped six straight en route to 111 losses.

Last year, Houston started 18-32. The Astros were then at 36-54 before going 31-29 during a stretch from July 7-Sept. 15 to set themselves up to finish with 70 wins -- a 19-game improvement from 2013.

Houston's schedule in April is tough, with road series against playoff contenders Seattle and San Diego looming at the end of the month, as well as a three-game series at home against the Angels next week.

Astros fans take in the atmosphere on Opening Day. (AP)

"Getting off to a quick start would mean a lot to us and give the guys some confidence," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "We've got a lot of young players. You look at the lineup and there's only three guys starting [Monday] that were in the lineup [last Opening Day]. … A quick start would be great. The fans would get a little confidence and get behind us. We'd like to see a lot more people down here and have some fun."

The Astros drew 43,754 fans to Minute Maid Park on Monday, which is the sixth-highest crowd in the ballpark's history and highest since 2010. If Houston can carry the momentum from Monday throughout the month, Luhnow says the fans will continue to take notice.

"Once our fans see the product on the field this year that we put together building off the improvements of last year, I think they'll respond," Luhnow said. "This is a great sports town."

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