Astros’ title ring ceremony will precede game with Orioles

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros‘ 2017 World Series banner was unveiled, somewhat fractiously, Monday with the ring ceremony is set for pregame Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

How the club handled the hoopla in advance of their home opener offered yet another glimpse of their focus.

The Astros (4-1) cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in a fashion so methodical that it belied the supposed distraction that preceded the game. The Astros spent most of spring training putting their first championship behind them. When it came time to revisit the accomplishment and celebrate it before a sellout crowd of vocal supporters, they relished it.

And when Charlie Morton toed the rubber for the first pitch, it was back to business.

“We’re enjoying the memories that come with wearing these gold-lettered jerseys and unveiling the banner,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We get the rings tomorrow. They can compartmentalize pretty well and I’m proud of that about this team.”

With Morton tossing six scoreless innings, the Astros completed one turn through the rotation with their starters posting a 1.78 ERA over 30 1/3 innings, recording 36 strikeouts against nine walks.

Right-hander Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his second start of the season for the Astros on Tuesday and 20th of his career against the Orioles, against whom he is 10-5 with a 3.71 ERA. He pitched against the Orioles once last season while still with Detroit, allowing two runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-2 victory at Camden Yards on Aug. 4.

“The old saying is you’re only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. And ours is really good,” Hinch said. “The rotation starts over tomorrow with J.V. and what a luxury to have a starting pitcher that every single member in the clubhouse, every member of the coaching staff, and anybody that buys a ticket tomorrow is going to think that we’re going to win because the starting pitcher is pretty good.”

Right-hander Mike Wright, Jr. will make his season debut for the Orioles (1-3). He did not record a decision while posting a 5.76 ERA over 13 relief appearances with Baltimore last season. In one previous start against the Astros, Wright allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks with one strikeout over five innings while suffering a 6-4 loss at Minute Maid Park on June 2, 2015.

Baltimore will hold right-hander Dylan Bundy back a day, pushing his second start of the season to Wednesday afternoon.

Bundy pitched a career-high 169 2/3 innings last season and, while there were no complications following his stellar start Thursday against the Twins when he worked seven scoreless innings allowing five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts, the Orioles see no need to push the issue this early in his third season back from injury.

“Just because he’s good and it’s going good doesn’t mean that you push him more,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You do everything possible to keep everybody on our staff healthy.

“Dylan, we want him around for the long haul. Just because he got through last year healthy doesn’t mean that we just throw caution to the wind. We’re not going to do that.”