If you were trying to cobble together and define the quintessential Astros win, a win that contains all of the relevant elements that embody this team, what would that win contain? Well, probably a home run from George Springer, some general offensive chicanery from Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa chipping in an RBI double, six shutout innings from Justin Verlander, and a final chaser of Ken Giles scaring the ever-loving bejeezus out of you by allowing a run and a few hits in the ninth inning.
If you got all of those elements in one game, I think you will have come away with the quintessential Astro-style win. So on paper that's exactly what the 47,253 at Globe Life Park in Arlington got on Thursday afternoon, as the Astros deployed all of those elements in a 4-1 win to open the 2018 campaign.
What you can't see on paper, though — the swagger of a team that is defending its franchise's first world championship, the quiet, bubbling vitriol between in-state rivals, in part because of the Rangers' declining to accommodate the Astros in scheduling games last year post-Harvey — those were all evident, too. Astro fans were out in Arlington in full force to watch their team.
For the second season in a row, Springer started it with a home run in the team's first at bat of the season, and Verlander, for all intents and purposes, finished it by humbling the Rangers over the first six innings, shutting them out while the Astros built a 4-0 lead.
Verlander, who threw an economical 90 pitches, allowed the Rangers just two runners to third base over his six innings pitched, both with two outs. The only time the Rangers ever really threatened Verlander was in his final inning of work, getting runners to first and third with two out, but that ended when he struck out Nomar Mazara to end the rally.
Here's Verlander on his first outing of the season, courtesy of Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
Justin Verlander on his winning performance pic.twitter.com/7obXisxZif— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) March 29, 2018
Aside from the usual hitting, fielding, and pitching, the Astros also broke out a wild looking defensive alignment they'd been working on during the spring (one of many) in which they moved third baseman Alex Bregman to deep far left field, essentially using four outfielders against Ranger first baseman Joey Gallo:
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Manager A.J. Hinch was predictably thrilled with Thursday's results:
Astros manager AJ Hinch postgame pic.twitter.com/kTBPmzAO9B— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) March 29, 2018
The Astros and Rangers get back at it tonight with 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel taking on former Astro Doug Fister. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.