For a brief period of time Houston Astros found themselves at the top of Major League Baseball as a result of beating state rivals in the opening game. Texas Rangers is widely regarded as one of the favorites to win its division and among the teams with a decent chance at winning the World Series. They certainly didn’t look like one when facing the Astros and they will need to make some adjustments in their starting rotation. The pitching was below expectations and although Houston is not one of the best hitting teams in the majors, the hosts scored eight runs with relative ease.
For Bo Porter, the opening game couldn’t have ended better and gave him his first win as a manager, but what’s most important, proved that his spring training strategy paid off. Erik Bedard was terrific in the 3 1/2 innings he played, although the coach chose to pull him out relatively early despite the fact that he didn’t concede a single run. It was a magical night for the Astros who won their 4000th victory and the opening match for the first time in over seven years.
Uplifting as these victory might be, Houston has a long and twisted road ahead of it and needs to finish the season with a winning record for the first time in five years. What’s most worrisome is that the Astros have lost more than 100 games for consecutive seasons and it was their hitting squad that dragged them to the gutter. On the upside, neither the fans nor the management have high expectations and the lack of pressure should help Houston get back on track and make an attempt at a rare playoffs berth.
Erik Bedard is one of the pitchers that have an excellent record against Texas, but the veteran player has been relatively sharp against other American League opponents. Porter will need him and his fellow pitchers to keep up because everyone is watching him now that he has become the youngest manager in professional baseball. His team can’t compete with the usual candidates for the playoffs, but despite the relatively low-budget, Porter has good reasons to be optimistic.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Texas Rangers, a team that has high a budget and equally high aspirations. They were unable to prevent Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli from leaving the team in the season break and only time will tell whether the replacements will rise up to the challenge. Matt Harrison and Berkman are yet to prove their worth, following a rather disappointing first game for the Rangers, while Nelson Cruz was even worse in the opening game and one of his errors allowed Houston to score in the fifth inning.
The Astros will need to keep up this tempo at least until the All Stars game, because poor season starts prevented them from standing a chance in the second half in the last couple of years. It is going to be difficult for Porter to lead his young team to the playoffs, but if he succeeds in beating the odds he will have a long and prosperous career in Houston. An interesting recap of the opening game is available