HOUSTON (AP) – When the Houston Astros didn’t have a hit with two outs in the sixth inning against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, new manager A.J. Hinch wasn’t concerned.
Jose Altuve was coming up to bat.
“I think he’s going to get a hit every time,” Hinch said of last year’s AL batting champion.
Hinch was right to be confident. Altuve ended the no-hit bid with a single and later scored to back a combined three-hitter by Dallas Keuchel and two relievers in Houston’s 2-0 win over the Cleveland Indians.
George Springer and Jake Marisnick each drove in a run for the Astros. Making his first opening-day start, Keuchel (1-0) allowed three hits and struck out four in seven innings.
“I think the city of Houston has waited a long time for a winner and we’re trying to get back there,” Keuchel said. “Granted it’s only one game, but we have the guys to succeed and I think we’re going to show some people that this year.”
Tony Sipp threw a perfect eighth and new closer Luke Gregerson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
Altuve’s soft single that broke up the no-hitter dropped in front of Michael Bourn in center field.
“I made a pretty good pitch, but he’s got good hands and good bat control, and he dumped one in there,” Kluber said.
Altuve stole second and scored on a single by Springer, who was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
“He starts everything,” Springer said of Altuve. “He always does.”
Springer was playing for the first time since July 19, after a quadriceps injury cut short a promising rookie season in which he hit 20 homers in 78 games.
Kluber (1-0) yielded three hits and two runs with seven strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings a day after agreeing to a five-year, $38.5 million contract.
Jed Lowrie drew a one-out walk in the eighth before a single by Colby Rasmus chased Kluber. He was replaced by Scott Atchison, and Marisnick’s sacrifice fly scored Lowrie to push the lead to 2-0.
Kluber retired his first seven batters before walking Rasmus with one out in the third. But the right-hander got back on track quickly, setting down the next two Astros to end the inning.
He threw a perfect fourth with two strikeouts before Chris Carter came close to knocking one out of the park to start the fifth inning. Brandon Moss grabbed the long fly on the warning track in front of the bullpen.
Keuchel also retired the first seven he faced, including striking out the side in the second. Lonnie Chisenhall singled with one out in the third.
Keuchel walked one in the fourth and two in the fifth, but didn’t allow another hit until back-to-back singles by Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes to start the seventh.
The left-hander escaped the jam by retiring the next three batters to end the threat and his night.
Indians: OF Nick Swisher, on the 15-day disabled list, was with the Indians in Houston for opening day, but will travel to Cleveland on Tuesday to continue rehabilitation from surgery on both knees. Manager Terry Francona is encouraged with the progress of the 34-year-old. “He’s doing pretty well,” Francona said. “He’s done a really good job of being so consistent on everything they’ve asked him to do.”
Astros: Houston pitchers Brad Peacock, Josh Fields and Brett Oberholtzer started the season on the disabled list, but are making progress in their recoveries.
Peacock, who had hip surgery this offseason, is expected to make a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Fresno late this week. Fields, who has a groin injury, will throw a simulated game in the next couple of days.
Oberholtzer, who has a blister on his left index finger, is getting better, but is behind the other two in his recovery. Hinch said the skin on Oberholtzer’s finger is healing but he isn’t sure when he’ll throw off the mound.
The Astros honored Altuve for becoming the first player in franchise history to win a batting title, and owner Jim Crane presented the second baseman with his Silver Slugger award in a pregame ceremony. Altuve, who hit .341 last season, was given a diamond ring and a black Lexus SUV.
The 24-year-old Altuve also broke a team record previously held by Craig Biggio by leading the majors with 225 hits last season. Biggio, elected to the Hall of Fame this year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Altuve.
Both teams are off Tuesday before Houston’s Scott Feldman opposes Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday. Carrasco has been great in three games, with two starts, in his career against Houston, going 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 21 strikeouts.
Feldman had a 3.74 ERA last year in his first season with the Astros.
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