HOUSTON -- The Astros ran their Opening Day winning streak to five games, getting solo homers from George Springer and Carlos Correa and seven scoreless innings and stellar defense from Dallas Keuchel to beat the Mariners, 3-0, on Monday night at sold-out Minute Maid Park.
"Today was awesome," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "The energy level in the ballpark, the energy level on the game. Obviously, George set the tone at the top. We just had a great day. We played great defense, the storyline of Dallas stepping up and being excellent, set a nice tone for us."
Springer greeted Mariners ace Felix Hernandez with a leadoff homer in the first, and Correa led off the fourth with a towering shot down the left-field line that traveled 449 feet, according to Statcast™. Hernandez was otherwise unscathed in allowing five hits and two runs, striking out six, before leaving after five innings with groin tightness in his 10th Opening Day start.
Hernandez said athletic trainer Rick Griffin told manager Scott Servais the issue was affecting his delivery and the decision was made to end his night.
"He didn't think I was pushing off the right way," Hernandez said. "It's too early for that. But for sure, I'll be there [for his next start]."
Keuchel, the first Astros lefty to make an Opening Day start in three consecutive seasons, held the Mariners to two hits and two walks and struck out four batters while throwing 85 pitches. Keuchel fought through a 26-pitch fourth inning in which he retired Leonys Martin to strand the bases loaded and then retired the final six batters he faced.
"It felt great to get back out there and compete without thinking about it too much," said Keuchel, who missed the final month of last year with shoulder inflammation. "It's a great feeling to have and just to start off on a good note is probably the best possible scenario. We'd like to build on it."
In addition to a pair of terrific defensive plays by Keuchel, Springer ran down a ball off the bat of Nelson Cruz to end the eighth. Cruz, who last year led MLB in average exit velocity, had the ball leave his bat at 113.0 mph with a launch angle of 15 degrees, and similar batted ball carry a Hit Probability of 78 percent. But Springer managed to stay with it -- and fight off the knuckling liner -- to make a dramatic grab.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Springer dinger: Springer set the tone by clubbing the fourth pitch of the season thrown by Hernandez and sending it 389 feet, according to Statcast™, into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a homer. Springer's home run marked the third time in franchise history a player hit a leadoff homer on Opening Day. The other two times were by Terry Puhl, most recently April 10, 1980, vs. the Dodgers.
"We have eight guys up behind me that can hit it just as far," Springer said. "That's where I fit in, I guess, hitting first, and I'm all right with it. Once you get past me, you still have eight guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's fun. I'll do my job, do my role, and enjoy it."
Opportunity nullified: The Mariners didn't muster many chances against Keuchel, but they couldn't cash in on a two-out, bases-loaded shot in the fourth. After a Robinson Cano single and walks by Cruz and Danny Valencia, Martin came to the plate and grounded a first-pitch fastball right to Jose Altuve at second. The Mariners only had one other baserunner get past first in Keuchel's seven frames -- leadoff hitter Jean Segura singled in the first and got to second on a groundout.
"Keuchel is a strike thrower," said Servais. "He's not going to walk a lot of guys. We did chase some balls out of the zone today, but it's Opening Day. Guys are fired up, they want to make a difference, make a big impact. We got away from our game plan a little in that regard. But give him credit. He threw a good ballgame."
"That's him -- early strikes, soft contact early in the count. He did a great job today keeping us in the game and worked at a great pace and he was able to have good command of the zone, so that helped us a lot to win the game." -- Correa on Keuchel
"It was kind of the Dallas Keuchel Show with the defensive plays on the bunts, the comebacker. We put some pressure on him, but he made some great plays. The two bunts were phenomenal plays." -- Servais
WHAT'S NEXT Mariners: Veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will look to turn around an inconsistent spring when he takes the hill for Tuesday's 5:10 p.m. PT rematch. The 35-year-old is 3-3 with a 3.26 ERA in eight starts at Minute Maid Park.
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who began and ended last season on the disabled list, makes his first start since Aug. 2 when the Astros meet the Mariners at 7:10 p.m. CT Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. He's 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA in five starts against Seattle in his career.