Verlander outpitches Snell, Astros cruise past Rays 5-1

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Justin Verlander relished facing Blake Snell on opening day.

''I don't try to hide behind the this-is-just-another-start anymore,'' the Houston ace said.

The Astros star delivered, beating Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 in a rare season-opening matchup between pitchers who finished first and second in balloting for the Cy Young Award.

''There definitely is more intensity to it,'' Verlander added. '' It's kind of somewhere between a playoff game and a regular-season game, so I just kind of used the adrenalin, and you go from there.''

George Springer homered on opening day for the third straight year. Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve also went deep for the Astros against Snell, the AL Cy Young recipient who won 21 games and led the league in ERA.

Verlander (1-0) allowed a leadoff homer to Austin Meadows on his fourth before dominating a mostly young Tampa Bay lineup featuring just one player - center fielder Kevin Kiermaier - who started for the Rays on opening day last year.

''I just hit the reset button real quick,'' the 36-year-old right-hander said.

''It's not something you want to do, to lead off the year with a homer,'' Verlander added. ''But I've done it before, so it was let's go turn the page and try to find it.''

Verlander, fresh off signing a three-year contract that added $66 million in guaranteed money for 2020 and 2021, limited the Rays to one run and three hits over seven innings before a crowd of 25,025 at Tropicana Field - Tampa Bay's 14th consecutive sellout for a home opener.

''We ran into a buzz saw. He did a great job having all of us off balance,'' Kiermaier said. ''For me personally, I feel like every time I thought a fastball was coming it was an offspeed. A couple times I thought he's going to try to get me to chase an off speed, it was a heater.''

Verlander, who improved to 4-1 in 11 opening day starts, struck out nine and only allowed one hit - Yandy Diaz's seventh-inning double - and three baserunners total after walking a batter and plunking another in the second.

Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless eighth and Roberto Osuna worked a perfect ninth inning to finish a combined four-hitter.

Springer gave Astros ace all the offensive support he'd need with a three-run homer in the third off Snell, who yielded five runs and six hits over six innings of his first opening day start.

The 26-year-old lefty, who signed a $50 million, five-year contract extension this month, walked two batters ahead of Springer's home run and finished with three strikeouts.

''I was happy with a lot of things I did, but I was upset with sequencing,'' Snell said. ''Threw first pitch curveballs to Springer twice. Right there credit him. He was waiting for it. I fell in love with the curveball and didn't mix pitches like I should have been doing.''

With the NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom facing Washington's Max Scherzer earlier Thursday, Snell vs. Verlander became the fourth instance of a reigning Cy Young recipient facing the runner-up for the award on opening day the next season.

The other two matchups both occurred in 1979, when reigning AL winner Ron Guidry (Yankees) faced runner-up Mike Caldwell (Brewers) and NL winner Gaylord Perry (Padres) faced Burt Hooton (Dodgers).

LATE SELLOUT

Despite closing the upper deck at Tropicana Field, reducing capacity of the domed stadium to 25,025 for this season, Thursday's game wasn't announced as a sellout until late Wednesday. It's the 14th consecutive season the Rays have sold out the home opener, however the club routinely finishes near the bottom of the majors in attendance, including 29th among 30 teams in 2018. Attendance for the past five home openers was listed as Last year's opening day attendance was announced as 31,042.

''It's problematic,'' Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg said of the late sellout, noting there were far fewer tickets available than for previous openers.

''25,000 seats given everything that we are; the way we finished last year; the team we had; the 4 o'clock start, it should be a layup to use a different sport phrase,'' the owner added. ''It is what it is.''

SUBPAR OUTING

Snell's loss was his first since July 12 at Minnesota, ending a stretch of nine consecutive victories over a span of 10 starts. ... The young left-hander didn't allow more than two runs in any of his 14 starts at home in 2018. He yielded one or fewer in 12 of them.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Astros: RHP's Lance McCullers Jr. (right elbow surgery) and Joe Smith (left Achilles' tendon surgery) were both placed on the 10-day injured list. Meanwhile, SS Carlos Correa (nick stiffness) said before the game that his injury is ''nothing major'' and that he hopes to be ready to play some time before the end of the four-game series.

Rays: To finalize the opening day roster, 3B Matt Duffy (left hamstring tightness), LHP Anthony Banda (Tommy John surgery) and RHP Jose De Leon (Tommy John surgery) were placed on the 10-day injured list.

UP NEXT

RHP Charlie Morton, 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts last season with Houston, will make his Tampa Bay debut Friday night against the Astros and RHP Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA in 2018). Signed to a $30 million, two-year contract as a free agent by the Rays, Morton won Game 7 in both the ALCS and World Series in 2017 for the Astros.

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123456789RHE
HOU1-0
0031100005101
TB0-1
100000000140
  • W: J. Verlander (1-0)L: B. Snell (0-1)
  • HR: HOU - M. Brantley (1), J. Altuve (1), G. Springer (1), TB - A. Meadows (1)
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
HITTERSABRHRBIHRBBSOLOBAVGOBPSLGOPSFPTS
G. Springer RF51131023.200.200.8001.0007.0
J. Altuve 2B41211000.500.5001.5002.0008.0
A. Bregman 3B40000011.000.000.000.000-0.5
M. Brantley LF41211011.500.5001.2501.7505.5
Y. Gurriel 1B40200001.500.500.7501.2502.0
T. White DH40100012.250.250.250.5000.5
R. Chirinos C31100111.333.500.6671.1673.5
A. Diaz SS40000014.000.000.000.000-0.5
J. Marisnick CF31100112.333.500.333.8332.5
    HITTERSABRHRBIHRBBSOLOBAVGOBPSLGOPSFPTS
    A. Meadows RF41111020.250.2501.0001.2505.0
    T. Pham LF40200000.500.500.5001.0002.0
    J. Choi 1B40000021.000.000.000.000-1.0
    B. Lowe DH40000012.000.000.000.000-0.5
    Y. Diaz 3B30100100.333.500.6671.1673.0
    J. Wendle 2B20000000.000.500.000.5002.0
    W. Adames SS40000034.000.000.000.000-1.5
    K. Kiermaier CF30000024.000.000.000.000-1.0
    M. Zunino C30000024.000.000.000.000-1.0
      BATTING
      • 2B - J. Altuve, Y. Gurriel, R. Chirinos
      • HR - G. Springer, J. Altuve, M. Brantley
      • RBI - G. Springer 3 (3), J. Altuve, M. Brantley
      • 2-Out RBI - J. Altuve
      • Runners left in scoring position, 2-Out - G. Springer 3 (3), Y. Gurriel, A. Diaz
      BATTING
      • 2B - Y. Diaz
      • HR - A. Meadows
      • RBI - A. Meadows
      • Runners left in scoring position, 2-Out - B. Lowe 2 (2), M. Zunino 4 (4)
      BASERUNNING
      • CS - M. Brantley, Y. Gurriel
      FIELDING
      • E - A. Diaz
      PITCHERSIPHRERBBSOHRERAWHIPFPTS
      J. Verlander (W, 1-0)7.03111911.290.5730.5
      R. Pressly1.01000200.001.003.0
      R. Osuna1.00000100.000.003.5
      PITCHERSIP
      J. Verlander (W, 1-0)7.0
      R. Pressly1.0
      R. Osuna1.0
      PITCHERSIPHRERBBSOHRERAWHIPFPTS
      B. Snell (L, 0-1)6.06552337.501.331.5
      J. Beeks3.04000500.001.337.5
      PITCHERSIP
      B. Snell (L, 0-1)6.0
      J. Beeks3.0
      PITCHING
      • HBP - J. Verlander 2 (2)
      • Pitches-Strikes - J. Verlander 102-74, R. Pressly 13-11, R. Osuna 9-5
      • Ground Balls-Fly Balls - J. Verlander 8-4, R. Pressly 1-0
      • Batters Faced - J. Verlander 27, R. Pressly 4, R. Osuna 3
      PITCHING
      • Pitches-Strikes - B. Snell 91-55, J. Beeks 54-38
      • Ground Balls-Fly Balls - B. Snell 5-8, J. Beeks 2-2
      • Batters Faced - B. Snell 24, J. Beeks 13
      PLAYERS OF THE GAME
      123456789RHE
      HOU1-0
      0031100005101
      TB0-1
      100000000140
      HITTERSABRHRBIHRBBSOLOBAVGOBPSLGOPSFPTS
      G. Springer RF51131023.200.200.8001.0007.0
      J. Altuve 2B41211000.500.5001.5002.0008.0
      A. Bregman 3B40000011.000.000.000.000-0.5
      M. Brantley LF41211011.500.5001.2501.7505.5
      Y. Gurriel 1B40200001.500.500.7501.2502.0
      T. White DH40100012.250.250.250.5000.5
      R. Chirinos C31100111.333.500.6671.1673.5
      A. Diaz SS40000014.000.000.000.000-0.5
      J. Marisnick CF31100112.333.500.333.8332.5
      Total35510532815-----
        HITTERSABRHRBIHRBBSOLOBAVGOBPSLGOPSFPTS
        A. Meadows RF41111020.250.2501.0001.2505.0
        T. Pham LF40200000.500.500.5001.0002.0
        J. Choi 1B40000021.000.000.000.000-1.0
        B. Lowe DH40000012.000.000.000.000-0.5
        Y. Diaz 3B30100100.333.500.6671.1673.0
        J. Wendle 2B20000000.000.500.000.5002.0
        W. Adames SS40000034.000.000.000.000-1.5
        K. Kiermaier CF30000024.000.000.000.000-1.0
        M. Zunino C30000024.000.000.000.000-1.0
        Total31141111215-----
          BATTING
          • 2B - J. Altuve, Y. Gurriel, R. Chirinos
          • HR - G. Springer, J. Altuve, M. Brantley
          • RBI - G. Springer 3 (3), J. Altuve, M. Brantley
          • 2-Out RBI - J. Altuve
          • Runners left in scoring position, 2-Out - G. Springer 3 (3), Y. Gurriel, A. Diaz
          BATTING
          • 2B - Y. Diaz
          • HR - A. Meadows
          • RBI - A. Meadows
          • Runners left in scoring position, 2-Out - B. Lowe 2 (2), M. Zunino 4 (4)
          BASERUNNING
          • CS - M. Brantley, Y. Gurriel
          FIELDING
          • E - A. Diaz
          PITCHERSIPHRERBBSOHRERAWHIPFPTS
          J. Verlander (W, 1-0)7.03111911.290.5730.5
          R. Pressly1.01000200.001.003.0
          R. Osuna1.00000100.000.003.5
          Total9.04111121---
          PITCHERSIP
          J. Verlander (W, 1-0)7.0
          R. Pressly1.0
          R. Osuna1.0
          Total9.0
          PITCHERSIPHRERBBSOHRERAWHIPFPTS
          B. Snell (L, 0-1)6.06552337.501.331.5
          J. Beeks3.04000500.001.337.5
          Total9.01055283---
          PITCHERSIP
          B. Snell (L, 0-1)6.0
          J. Beeks3.0
          Total9.0
          PITCHING
          • HBP - J. Verlander 2 (2)
          • Pitches-Strikes - J. Verlander 102-74, R. Pressly 13-11, R. Osuna 9-5
          • Ground Balls-Fly Balls - J. Verlander 8-4, R. Pressly 1-0
          • Batters Faced - J. Verlander 27, R. Pressly 4, R. Osuna 3
          PITCHING
          • Pitches-Strikes - B. Snell 91-55, J. Beeks 54-38
          • Ground Balls-Fly Balls - B. Snell 5-8, J. Beeks 2-2
          • Batters Faced - B. Snell 24, J. Beeks 13
          • 5TH INNING
            Altuve homered to left center51
          • 4TH INNING
            Brantley homered to right41
          • 3RD INNING
            Springer homered to center, Chirinos and Marisnick scored31
          • 1ST INNING
            Meadows homered to left center01
          • 9TH INNING
            • J. Beeks Pitching:
            • T. White: Ball, Strike swinging, White singled to left center
            • R. Chirinos: Strike swinging, Foul, Chirinos doubled to left center, White to third
            • A. Diaz: Diaz grounded out to shortstop
            • J. Marisnick: Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Foul tip, Marisnick struck out on foul tip
            • G. Springer: Strike looking, Ball, Foul, Ball, Ball, Strike swinging, Springer struck out swinging
            • Middle of the 9th (0 Runs, 2 Hits, 0 Errors)
            • Roberto Osuna relieved Ryan Pressly
            • Y. Diaz: Diaz flied out to deep center
            • J. Wendle: Ball, Ball, Wendle flied out to deep right
            • W. Adames: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Foul, Strike looking, Adames struck out looking
            • End of the 9th (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors)
          • 8TH INNING
            • J. Beeks Pitching:
            • J. Altuve: Ball, Ball, Altuve doubled to deep left
            • A. Bregman: Strike looking, Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Ball, Bregman lined out to shortstop
            • M. Brantley: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Brantley popped out to shortstop
            • Y. Gurriel: Gurriel grounded out to shortstop
            • Middle of the 8th (0 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
            • Ryan Pressly relieved Justin Verlander
            • A. Meadows: Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Strike swinging, Meadows struck out swinging
            • T. Pham: Foul, Ball, Pham singled to center
            • J. Choi: Strike looking, Strike looking, Foul, Strike looking, Choi struck out looking
            • B. Lowe: Strike looking, Lowe grounded out to second
            • End of the 8th (0 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
          • 7TH INNING
            • Jalen Beeks relieved Blake Snell
            • R. Chirinos: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Ball, Foul, Strike looking, Chirinos struck out looking
            • A. Diaz: Strike looking, Foul, Ball, Foul, Ball, Strike swinging, Diaz struck out swinging
            • J. Marisnick: Strike looking, Strike looking, Ball, Foul, Ball, Marisnick singled to center
            • G. Springer: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Foul, Strike swinging, Springer struck out swinging
            • Middle of the 7th (0 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • Y. Diaz: Strike swinging, Foul, Ball, Diaz doubled to deep left
            • J. Wendle: Strike looking, Ball, Wendle hit by pitch
            • W. Adames: Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Strike swinging, Adames struck out swinging
            • K. Kiermaier: Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Strike swinging, Kiermaier struck out swinging
            • M. Zunino: Ball, Ball, Strike swinging, Zunino grounded out to shortstop
            • End of the 7th (0 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
          • 6TH INNING
            • B. Snell Pitching:
            • M. Brantley: Ball, Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Strike looking, Brantley singled to right
            • Y. Gurriel: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Brantley caught stealing second, catcher to second, Ball, Foul, Gurriel grounded out to third
            • T. White: Strike swinging, Ball, Strike swinging, White grounded out to shortstop
            • Middle of the 6th (0 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • A. Meadows: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Strike swinging, Meadows struck out swinging
            • T. Pham: Ball, Pham lined out to third
            • J. Choi: Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Choi safe at first on shortstop Diaz fielding error
            • B. Lowe: Strike looking, Foul, Ball, Ball, Lowe grounded out to second
            • End of the 6th (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 1 Error)
          • 5TH INNING
            • B. Snell Pitching:
            • J. Marisnick: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Ball, Marisnick flied out to center
            • G. Springer: Ball, Ball, Ball, Springer fouled out to first
            • J. Altuve: Ball, Altuve homered to left center
            • A. Bregman: Ball, Ball, Foul, Ball, Bregman flied out to right
            • Middle of the 5th (1 Run, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • W. Adames: Strike looking, Foul, Adames grounded out to shortstop
            • K. Kiermaier: Strike swinging, Foul, Strike swinging, Kiermaier struck out swinging
            • M. Zunino: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Strike swinging, Zunino struck out swinging
            • End of the 5th (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors)
          • 4TH INNING
            • B. Snell Pitching:
            • M. Brantley: Brantley homered to right
            • Y. Gurriel: Ball
            • T. White: White grounded out to shortstop
            • R. Chirinos: Strike looking, Ball, Chirinos grounded out to third
            • A. Diaz: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Strike swinging, Diaz popped out to first
            • Middle of the 4th (1 Run, 2 Hits, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • B. Lowe: Ball, Strike swinging, Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Foul, Lowe grounded out to first
            • Y. Diaz: Strike looking, Ball, Strike swinging, Diaz grounded out to shortstop
            • J. Wendle: Wendle flied out to right
            • End of the 4th (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors)
          • 3RD INNING
            • B. Snell Pitching:
            • R. Chirinos: Ball, Strike looking, Strike swinging, Foul, Ball, Ball, Ball, Chirinos walked
            • A. Diaz: Diaz flied out to right
            • J. Marisnick: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Foul, Ball, Ball, Marisnick walked, Chirinos to second
            • G. Springer: Springer homered to center, Chirinos and Marisnick scored
            • J. Altuve: Ball, Altuve grounded out to shortstop
            • A. Bregman: Strike looking, Bregman flied out to right
            • Middle of the 3rd (3 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • A. Meadows: Ball, Meadows lined out to center
            • T. Pham: Strike looking, Pham lined out to shortstop
            • J. Choi: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Strike swinging, Strike swinging, Choi struck out swinging
            • End of the 3rd (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors)
          • 2ND INNING
            • B. Snell Pitching:
            • M. Brantley: Strike looking, Strike looking, Ball, Strike swinging, Brantley struck out swinging
            • Y. Gurriel: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Ball, Gurriel singled to left
            • T. White: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Foul tip, White struck out on foul tip
            • R. Chirinos: Ball, Strike looking, Gurriel caught stealing second, catcher to second
            • Middle of the 2nd (0 Runs, 1 Hit, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • Y. Diaz: Strike swinging, Ball, Ball, Foul, Ball, Ball, Diaz walked
            • J. Wendle: Ball, Wendle hit by pitch, Diaz to second
            • W. Adames: Ball, Strike swinging, Strike swinging, Foul, Strike swinging, Adames struck out swinging
            • K. Kiermaier: Ball, Strike looking, Kiermaier reached on fielder's choice to second, Diaz to third, Wendle out at second
            • M. Zunino: Strike looking, Pickoff attempt to first, Strike (foul tip), Ball, Foul, Foul tip, Zunino struck out on foul tip
            • End of the 2nd (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors)
          • 1ST INNING
            • B. Snell Pitching:
            • G. Springer: Strike looking, Ball, Strike swinging, Foul, Ball, Springer popped out to shortstop
            • J. Altuve: Strike swinging, Altuve lined out to center
            • A. Bregman: Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Ball, Strike swinging, Bregman struck out swinging
            • Middle of the 1st (0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors)
            • J. Verlander Pitching:
            • A. Meadows: Ball, Foul, Ball, Meadows homered to left center
            • T. Pham: Ball, Foul, Pham singled to left center
            • J. Choi: Strike swinging, Ball, Pham out at second, Ball, Strike looking, Choi grounded out to first
            • B. Lowe: Strike swinging, Foul, Strike swinging, Lowe struck out swinging
            • End of the 1st (1 Run, 2 Hits, 0 Errors)