CRUSH CITY: Astros' bats wake up in opening day win

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (KTRK) -- The Houston Astros erased an early 1-0 hole vs. the Tampa Bay Rays after George Springer crushed his third consecutive opening day home run.

New 'Stro Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve, then, added solo blasts to George's three-run "Springer Dinger" to give Houston the 5-1 win.

The offense made up for starting pitcher Justin Verlander giving up a lead-off homer to Tampa Bay's Austin Meadows. But after that, Verlander settled down for nine strikeouts and three hits in seven innings.

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The Astros entered game No. 1 without the man wearing No. 1 on the field. Carlos Correa had been listed as day-to-day heading into Thursday's season opener. The shortstop was ruled out of the lineup, replaced by infielder Aledmys Diaz, an offseason acquisition from Toronto who is essentially a replacement for Marwin Gonzalez.
Correa had been questionable due to a neck injury sustained in a spring training game last Friday.

Josh Reddick was also out of the lineup. He had been listed day-to-day due to back stiffness, MLB.com reported. Reddick was not in the second of two spring training games vs. Pittsburgh earlier this week.

The Astros still fielded a strong lineup:
  1. George Springer, RF: 1-5, HR, 3 RBI
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B: 2-4, HR, 2B, RBI
  3. Alex Bregman, 3B: 0-4
  4. Michael Brantley, LF: 2-4, HR, RBI
  5. Yuli Gurriel, 1B: 2-4, 2B
  6. Tyler White, DH: 1-4
  7. Robinson Chirinos, C: 1-3, 2B
  8. Aledmys Diaz, SS: 0-4
  9. Jake Marisnick, CF: 1-3

Verlander faced defending AL Cy Young winner, Blake Snell, who got rocked for six runs, including three home runs.

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As if he would need it, Verlander has renewed motivation entering the season. After last season's Cy Young snubbing and an ALCS elimination, the 36-year-old has a new two-year, $66 million contract that should make the Astros competitive beyond 2019.

Overall, Houston has the endorsement of MLB experts across the country. For instance, Sports Illustrated, the same magazine that predicted a 2017 World Series title three years prior to the win, have the Astros duplicating that success this year.

Houston and Tampa Bay's Friday matchup will carry some sentimentality. Former Astros pitcher Charlie Morton will start for the Rays in the second game of the series. He will go up against Gerrit Cole, who he and Morton have been platoon mates since their days in Pittsburgh.

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