ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Framber Valdez outpitched Shohei Ohtani with 6 2/3 innings of two-hit ball, and the Houston Astros tied the longest opening day winning streak in major league history with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.
Alex Bregman had an early RBI single and a late homer as the Astros won their 10th straight season opener. That matches the mark posted in the late 19th century by the Boston Beaneaters — now the Atlanta Braves.
Valdez (1-0) was dominant in the late-blooming left-hander's first career start in April, striking out six and yielding one early walk. He retired 15 straight Angels after Matt Duffy’s single in the second, and exited only after Duffy's soft infield single in the seventh.
Ohtani (0-1) struck out nine while pitching one-run ball into the fifth inning for the Angels, who lost their season opener for the eighth time in nine years. Last season's AL MVP went 0 for 4 at the plate while taking advantage of baseball's offseason rule change allowing him to remain the designated hitter after he finishes pitching.
Michael Brantley doubled and scored on Bregman's single off Ohtani in the third. Bregman then homered leading off the eighth on new reliever Ryan Tepera's first pitch for the Angels, and Yordan Alvarez added a solo shot on Tepera's fourth pitch.
Los Angeles finally scored in the eighth when Alvarez couldn't make a diving stab of David Fletcher's two-out triple to left, but Hector Neris retired Ohtani on a fly to right.
Ohtani didn’t win, but he made more baseball history: He became the first player in baseball history to throw his team’s first pitch of the season — a 99 mph fastball in the dirt to José Altuve — and to face his team’s first pitch of the season at the plate.
Ohtani was impressive in his first career opening day start on the mound, particularly against Altuve: Ohtani struck out the Astros star three times, getting him with a nasty slider on his 80th and final pitch. Ohtani became only the fourth pitcher to fan Altuve thrice in a game, but manager Joe Maddon pulled Ohtani early to preserve his arm after an abbreviated spring.
Mike Trout went 1 for 4 with a ninth-inning single in the three-time AL MVP's first game since missing the final 4 1/2 months of last season with an injured calf.
Anthony Rendon went 0 for 4 and made two stellar defensive plays in the $245 million third baseman’s first appearance since last July 4, thanks to a nasty hip injury. He missed a go-ahead homer by inches down the left field line in the seventh, and he flied out with Trout on base in the ninth.
Ryan Pressly then got Tyler Wade to ground into a game-ending double play, earning the save several hours after the Houston closer agreed to a two-year, $30 million contract extension.
Jeremy Peña went 0 for 4 in the touted prospect’s major league debut as Carlos Correa’s successor at shortstop, but the Astros showed off their fundamental roster sturdiness while extending their remarkable run of opening day success.
The streak was started in 2013 by an Astros team that went on to lose 111 games, and it continued through the franchise’s rise and current renaissance of five straight AL Championship Series appearances, three pennants and one World Series title.
Los Angeles put OF Taylor Ward on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain incurred during an exhibition game Tuesday. Ward would have been the opening day starter in right field.
Angels rookie left-hander Reid Detmers makes his season debut against Houston right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Detmers, the most promising pitcher yet in Los Angeles' string of prospects from its long-struggling farm system, is swapping rotation spots with Patrick Sandoval, who will pitch Tuesday after resting his tired arm.
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