Morton, Gonzalez help Astros over Orioles 6-1
(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) Just five games into the season, Houston manager A.J. Hinch already feels like a broken record when discussing his starting pitchers.
There is just a lot to love right now.
Charlie Morton pitched six scoreless innings Monday night, and the Astros unveiled their World Series banner before defeating the Baltimore Orioles 6-1 in their home opener.
"He was exceptional," Hinch said. "I know I keep using that word with our starting rotation but I thought he did a great job of making a few adjustments as he found the strike zone as the game got underway. That was pretty electrifying stuff again."
Morton (1-0) allowed three hits and fanned six in front of sellout crowd of 42,675, giving Houston's rotation a 1.78 ERA and 36 strikeouts this season. The right-hander picked up where he left off after getting the final 12 outs in Game 7 against the Dodgers to help secure Houston's first championship.
Morton said the atmosphere for the home opener was intense.
"There were a lot of people here that were hoping for (a win)," he said. "It's a big moment for the city. So I'm glad that I did all right."
Brad Peacock pitched a perfect seventh and Will Harris allowed one hit in the eighth before Collin McHugh took over. The starter-turned-reliever allowed a homer to Trey Mancini and a double to Colby Rasmus before retiring the last three batters.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman (0-1) was tagged for seven hits and four runs in four-plus innings in an uncharacteristically poor season debut. He entered with a 3-0 record and a 2.68 ERA in his first appearance of the year.
"The off-speed stuff was good, but the velocity stuff, when I hit on it, I got the right result and when I missed, it got hit hard," Tillman said.
Houston put together a fast start. George Springer and Alex Bregman began the first with consecutive doubles. Bregman advanced to third on a wild pitch before Jose Altuve, who was greeted with MVP chants on each trip to the plate, reached on a fielder's choice that left Bregman out at home. Tillman walked Josh Reddick with two outs, but he retired Marwin Gonzalez to end the inning.
Tillman had retired five in a row when Gonzalez led off the fourth with a drive to right for his first homer of the season. Brian McCann hit a one-out single and scored when a triple by Derek Fisher sailed just out of reach of center fielder Adam Jones.
Springer made it 4-0 with an RBI single in the fourth, and Altuve added a run-scoring double with two out in the sixth.
Jones had two hits for the Orioles, who have dropped three straight after winning their opener.
Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa departed after the second inning with discomfort in his left big toe. He fouled a ball off that foot on Sunday but did not leave the game. He wasn't sure if he'd play on Tuesday.
Orioles: RHP Alex Cobb, who didn't sign with the team until March 21, will pitch Wednesday in extended spring training in Florida. Manager Buck Showalter said the team will make a decision after that on whether he'll join the rotation or wait another turn.
Astros: 1B Yuli Gurriel was placed on the disabled list after the game. Gurriel, who had surgery on his left hand in February, will begin a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Corpus Christi in a few days. When Gurriel is healthy, he'll serve a five-game suspension for a racially insensitive gesture he made toward Yu Darvish during the 2017 World Series.
A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE
The pregame unveiling of the World Series pennant in left field hit a bit of a snag. Tugging ropes on the fabric covering the golden pennant on a windy day didn't work. So after a minute or so, a man with a leaf blower appeared and helped get it off. Players chuckled during the delay and fans cheered loudly when it finally came off.
"I was like: `Come on, come on, come on,' and then finally," Altuve said. "It was funny but in the end it came off and we all liked to see the World Series champs on the banner."
EMOTIONAL FIRST PITCH
Former Astros first base coach Rich Dauer, who has recovered after almost dying when he suffered an acute subdural hematoma during Houston's victory parade, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. Dauer wept openly the entire time he was on the field and wiped his puffy eyes with a handkerchief after he tossed the strike to Hinch. More tears came as he embraced Hinch at the plate and they continued to flow as he received big hugs from Correa, Altuve, Springer and many other Astros.
"The World Series mattered to him, living mattered more," Hinch said. "That moment hit a lot of us."
Orioles: Mike Wright makes his first start since 2016 on Tuesday night. Wright appeared in 13 games last season and had a 5.76 ERA.
Astros: Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00) takes the mound Tuesday night when the Astros receive their World Series rings. Verlander got the win in Houston's opener on Thursday, scattering four hits over six scoreless innings as the Astros downed the Rangers 4-1.
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Updated April 2, 2018