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Justin Verlander to start Opening Day for Astros

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch said veteran Justin Verlander will start on Opening Day, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros begin the regular season on March 29 on the road against the Rangers. Presumably, Verlander will pitch opposite Cole Hamels in a battle among state rivals.

Verlander ends Dallas Keuchel‘s streak of three consecutive Opening Day starts for the Astros. This will be Verlander’s 10th career Opening Day start. The right-hander opened the season seven consecutive seasons from 2008-14 for the Tigers and twice more in 2016-17.

The Astros acquired Verlander at the end of August last season in preparation for the playoffs. The move paid huge dividends as Verlander posted a 1.06 ERA across five starts with the Astros to end the regular season. In the playoffs, Verlander held the opposition to nine runs across 36 2/3 innings. That included two solid starts against the Dodgers in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, helping the Astros win their first ever championship.

Verlander, 35, is under contract for two more seasons, earning $28 million both years. He also has a vesting option for 2020 worth $22 million.

Anthems, first pitches and other ceremonial stuff

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The World Series is not just about the baseball. It’s about the bigger-than-usual stars singing the National Anthem, the more-famous-than-usual people throwing out the first pitch and all of the assorted to-do which surrounds the ballgames. Here is that sort of stuff for Game 1 and Game 2 in Boston.

First pitches:

  • Carl Yastrzemski will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 1. Yastrzemski also threw out the first pitch of Game 1 in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The Red Sox won each of those games and each of those World Series so, yeah, go with what works, right?
  • Members of the 2004 World Series Champions will throw the ceremonial first pitch of Game 2. It doesn’t say which members, so maybe my dream of Manny Ramirez doing it will work out after all. Hey, he played for the Dodgers too, so let’s make this happen, OK?

National Anthems:

  • Singer-songwriter James Taylor will perform the National Anthem prior to the start of Game 1. This morning Peter Gammons tweeted that Taylor’s family helped build Fenway Park. Let’s file that under “interesting, but not so interesting that it’s really worth tracking down to confirm, so why not believe it?” Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.
  • For Game 2 the National Anthem will be performed by the Boston Pops, with the Tanglewood Chorus and the Boston Symphony Children’s Chorus doing the singing. The Boston Pops are conducted by Keith Lockhart, who was a career .287/.354/.425 hitter in 37 postseason games with the Atlanta Braves. I mean, at least I’m pretty sure it’s the same Keith Lockhart. Again: not interesting enough to check so, like Gammons’ thing about James Taylor, let’s assume I’m right about this.

Play ball.