Houston – Dusty Baker posted a win in his debut as Houston's manager and the Astros, playing for the first time since their sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball, opened the season by beating the Seattle Mariners 8-2 Friday night.
"The guys had a lot of energy, a lot of belief and a lot of relief, getting back and playing a real game, because it didn’t look like this was even going to happen," Baker said.
Hoping to put a turbulent offseason behind them, the Astros started out with a victory at empty Minute Maid Park, the same place that was pulsating last October before Washington rallied late to win Game 7 of the World Series.
"You’re on the road playing a team that was in the World Series last year and there’s nobody there, and it’s just crazy," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "Just a different feeling."
Michael Brantley hit a three-run homer to back Justin Verlander.
The 71-year-old Baker posted a victory in his 3,500th regular-season game as a manager.
"That was the strangest opener of my career," Baker said.
He took over after manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired after being suspended for a year for their roles in the cheating during Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season.
Hooted and heckled on the road in spring training before camp was shut in mid-March, the Astros had no trouble with Seattle. No Houston batters were hit by pitches — in their last summer camp tuneup this week, stars Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer were plunked in an exhibition game at Kansas City.
The Astros went 18-1 against the Mariners last season. They got six solid innings from Verlander (1-0) to help them to their 14th straight victory over Seattle, setting a franchise record for most consecutive wins against any opponent.
Verlander struck out seven and walked one as he became the ninth pitcher in MLB history to make 12 opening day starts. He allowed just three hits, but the first two were solo homers to give the Mariners an early lead.
He talked about what it was like to get back on the field amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Obviously guys are risking a lot here, myself included with a young daughter at home, to bring America's pastime back to people and hopefully cheer them up and give them a little bit of a reprieve from a lot of the stuff that's been happening," he said.
The Astros trailed by one entering the fifth inning after a home run Kyle Seager in the fourth. Houston tied it at 2 on an RBI single by Altuve that chased starter Marco Gonzales (0-1). Zac Grotz took over and was greeted with Bregman’s run-scoring single that put the Astros on top.
Brantley then sent an off-speed pitch deep into the seats in right field to extend the lead to 6-2.
Rookie Kyle Lewis, who was one of 10 Mariners to make their first opening day roster, hit a home run to the train tracks atop left field to open the second inning and make it 1-0.
Martín Maldonado tied it with an RBI single in the Houston third an added an RBI with a single in the sixth. Carlos Correa tacked on a run with an RBI double in the seventh.
Both teams wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts during batting practice and most players knelt during a moment of unity before the national anthem. No one from either team knelt during the anthem, but Seattle players Justus Sheffield, J.P. Crawford, Dee Gordon, Shed Long, Lewis and Mallex Smith all raised their right fists as Lyle Lovett sang it virtually.
Cubs 3, Brewers 0
In Chicago, Kyle Hendricks convinced new manager David Ross to let him finish a three-hitter, Anthony Rizzo homered and dished out hand sanitizer, and the Cubs started the season by beating Milwaukee.
Ian Happ also had a two-run drive and Ross got his first victory as a big league manager as the Cubs opened this pandemic-shortened 60-game season without fans at Wrigley Field.
Hendricks struck out nine and walked none in his first career opening-day start and fourth career shutout.
Orlando Arcia had each of Milwaukee’s hits off Hendricks (1-0). After he singled with two out in the third for the Brewers’ first baserunner, he accepted a splash of sanitizer from a smiling Rizzo at first and cleaned off his hands.
Indians 2, Royals 0
In Cleveland, Shane Bieber struck out 14 over six scoreless innings as the Indians, making a statement for minorities by wearing their road jerseys with "Cleveland” on the front, beat Kansas City.
Bieber’s 14 strikeouts set a club record for opening day and are the most in the majors in an opener since Hall of Famer Randy Johnson also fanned 14 on March 31, 1996.
Mets 1, Braves 0
In New York, Yoenis Cespedes took advantage of the new designated hitter rule in the National League, launching a home run that sent Jacob deGrom and New York past Atlanta.
Cespedes connected in the seventh off reliever Chris Martin (0-1) for his first long ball since his previous major league game on July 20, 2018.
Coming off consecutive Cy Young Awards, deGrom fanned eight and permitted only a broken-bat single and a walk. He was pulled after 72 pitches.
Marlins 5, Phillies 2
Cardinals 5, Pirates 4
Padres 7, Diamondbacks 2
Dodgers 9, Giants 1
Athletics 7, Angels 3
Reds 7, Tigers 1
Blue Jays 6, Rays 4
Rangers 1, Rockies 0