Astros relish return of home crowd for Athletics’ visit

MLB

On the heels of a successful road swing through Oakland and Anaheim, the Houston Astros will open their home schedule on Thursday at Minute Maid Park with an added incentive: fans in the stands for the first time since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

The Athletics are in for a three-game series against an Astros’ team energized by winning 5 of 6 on the road to open the season. Oakland might just be grateful for a change of scenery following a 1-6 homestand.

The Astros endured their share of derision in finally facing opposing fans after the COVID-19 global pandemic cleared stadiums during the 2020 campaign. And while there was hostility on the road, the environment proved superior to the vacant stadiums from last season.

“It has been pretty nice having the fans in the stadium actually,” Astros right-hander Zack Greinke said. “I thought I enjoyed it last year without them but so far it’s been pretty nice having the fans, and going home will be really nice also.”

Right-hander Cristian Javier (0-0, 4.91 ERA) will start the home opener for the Astros.

He failed to escape the fourth inning in his first start of the season on April 2, departing with two outs in that frame after surrendering two runs on three hits with four strikeouts over 73 pitches. Javier retired the first nine batters he faced in order before coming undone in the fourth inning. He remains winless over three starts against Oakland, pitching to an 0-2 record with a 6.94 ERA.

Left-hander Cole Irvin (0-1, 8.31 ERA) will face the Astros for the second time in as many appearances on Thursday. He labored during the Athletics’ 9-1 loss on April 3, allowing four runs on seven hits and one walk with two strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings in what was his first career appearance against Houston. Of the 82 pitches Irvin tossed, only four were swinging strikes.

The Athletics salvaged the finale of their season-opening, seven-game homestand with a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

An RBI single from Mitch Moreland with one out in the 10th inning on Wednesday helped the A’s avoid the first 0-7 homestand in franchise history. Oakland earlier rallied off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to force extra innings.

It was a welcome win for the Athletics, the defending American League West champions. Oakland suffered a four-game sweep to the Astros last weekend and was outscored 35-9 in the process. A three-game set in Houston offers an early shot to right the wrongs from the prior series, with the defeat of the Dodgers working wonders to rebuild the Athletics’ confidence.

“It’s nice to go ahead and scratch one right there,” Moreland said. “It’s kind of been a tough go.

“It seems like we’ve had a team meeting about every night, everybody just trying to figure out what we can do. Guys talking the game a little bit, just trying to stay on track because it’s a long year — obviously everybody knows that. It’s not the start we wanted but getting that one helps.”

–Field Level Media

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