Cole fans 11 in Houston debut as Astros beat Rangers 8-2
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Must be nice to have a rotation so good that Gerrit Cole is the No. 4 starter.
Cole struck out 11 over seven innings in his Houston debut and the World Series champion Astros rolled to an 8-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday to take three of four from their state rivals in the season-opening series.
The 2015 All-Star allowed two hits after teammate Lance McCullers Jr. struck out 10 in another easy Houston win Saturday. They followed a pair of Cy Young Award winners to the mound in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel.
Cole started on opening day last year for Pittsburgh before an offseason trade to the Astros.
”This is obviously high-end stuff across the board,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. ”Gerrit would have pitched opening day for a lot of teams, and to have him pitch the fourth game of the year is really indicative of the depth of this rotation.”
The first hit off Cole (1-0) was slugger Joey Gallo’s opposite-field homer just over the tall wall in left field in the first inning against a four-man outfield. Third baseman Alex Bregman gave chase down the line on Gallo’s first of the season.
Facing the four-man outfield again in the eighth, Gallo singled through the vacant left side of the infield.
”You talking about the one that went out of the ballpark?” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. ”It was a great job by him beating the shift. I don’t think you can put a fifth outfielder over the fence.”
Derek Fisher had a tying RBI triple in the fifth and scored the go-ahead run on George Springer’s sacrifice fly against lefty Mike Minor (0-1), making his Texas debut and first major league start since 2014.
Carlos Correa doubled home two runs in the seventh and AL MVP Jose Altuve had three hits to finish 9 for 16 in the series. Evan Gattis had three hits and three RBIs, including a pair of run-scoring doubles. Max Stassi added an RBI single.
Cole struck out the side in the fifth and seventh innings for his most strikeouts since matching his career high of 12 in his final start of 2014.
The other hit Cole allowed was Elvis Andrus‘ leadoff double in the sixth, when he got an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners to preserve a 4-1 lead.
”He was in total control of the game, and I think he finished even stronger than he started,” Hinch said. ”His stuff was electrifying at the end of the game. What a great way to start his Astros career.”
Minor, who missed two big league seasons after shoulder surgery in 2015, was a reliever in Kansas City last season before signing as a free agent. He gave up three hits and two runs with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
”I felt like my old self again,” Minor said. ”Something to build on. I think the strength’s going to get better as the season goes on.”
Before Drew Robinson homered in the eighth for Texas, the bottom five hitters in the order were a combined 1 for 38 this season. With center fielder Delino DeShields out at least a month with a broken left hand, Ryan Rua and Robinson could be forced into the lineup more instead of platooning in left. Rookie Carlos Tocci is an option in center, but is considered a defense-first outfielder right now.
Astros: 1B Yuli Gurriel is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday, a day after another batting practice session at the Astros’ spring training facility in Florida. Gurriel started the season on the restricted list to serve his five-game suspension for an inappropriate gesture after homering against Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish of the Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series. Gurriel had surgery for a broken bone in his left hand Feb. 28.
Astros: RHP Charlie Morton, who was on the mound for the final out in Game 7 of the World Series in Los Angeles, starts the home opener against Baltimore on Monday.
Rangers: RHP Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start Texas’ first road game in Oakland on Monday. The 44-year-old right-hander is set to become the second-oldest player for Texas behind Nolan Ryan, who was 46 when he made the final start of his career in 1993.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball