The Latest: Astros begin defense of 1st World Series title

Miami Marlins Home Opener
The Associated Press

The Latest on baseball’s opening day (all times Eastern):

2:20 p.m.

The Houston Astros won 101 regular-season games last year, and then went on to win their first World Series title.

Before the Astros opened the new season at the instate and AL West rival Texas Rangers, manager A.J. Hinch was asked if he had a win total in mind for this season.

“One. Today,” he said.

___

1:40 p.m.

Two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is set to make his major league debut for the Los Angeles Angels at Oakland.

Manager Mike Scioscia hadn’t said when Ohtani would first play as designated hitter.

He is set to pitch for the first time starting Sunday’s series finale against the Athletics.

The A’s and Angels play seven times in their initial 10 games.

“I’m intrigued based on the fact that the athleticism is obvious. Looking at video from his time in Japan he is a true two-way guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Hopefully he gets off to a rough start and we see what he’s all about later on when he leaves us.”

___

1:30 p.m.

Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo made his emotional homecoming for this week’s season-opening series at Miami even more memorable by hitting a homer into the upper deck in the second inning.

During the series the Cubs and Marlins are honoring victims of last month’s mass shooting at Rizzo’s former high school in Parkland, Florida.

Both teams are wearing patches with the initials “MSD” and 17 stars to honor the number of lives lost in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Rizzo homered in the second inning off Jose Urena to put the Cubs ahead 4-1.

___

1:20 p.m.

The Marlins watched Jose Urena give up a homer on the first pitch of the season, allow a walk and hit two batters in the first inning before making the first mound visit under MLB’s new rules.

Urena trailed the Cubs 1-0, loaded the bases and fell behind Jason Heyward before Miami pitching coach Juan Nieves went to the mound. The scoreboard registered the trip and showed the Marlins had five visits left.

Major League Baseball is imposing stricter limits on mound visits this year in an effort to speed up games. The general limit is six visits per nine-inning game without a pitching change, whether by a manager, coach or player.

Ian Happ homered leading off to start Urena’s troubles.

___

1:15 p.m.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore spent part of opening day cutting the ribbon for the $20 million Urban Youth Academy in downtown Kansas City, not far from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

The pet project of Moore has been two years in the making. It includes a spacious indoor facility with batting cages and a field, and four outdoor fields.

The idea is to expose inner-city children to baseball and softball, particularly those children who come from less affluent backgrounds.

The Royals will provide much of the equipment.

___

12:45 p.m.

One pitch, one home run.

Chicago Cubs’ Ian Happ drove Miami right-hander Jose Urena’s pitch, the first offering of the 2018 major league season, into the right field seats at 12:43 p.m.

New Miami owner Derek Jeter watched his Marlins fall instantly behind from his seat two rows back of the Marlins dugout.

Dwight Evans of the Boston Red Sox homered on the first pitch of the 1986 season, connecting off new Hall of Famer Jack Morris at Tiger Stadium.

___

12:40 p.m.

After having the dozen or so media in his office share their memorable opening days, Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister shared some of his own before the home opener against the World Series champion Houston Astros.

On the top of Banister’s list was the 2015 opener, his first as a major league manager. That game was at Oakland, four days before his first home game with the Rangers.

There was also a bittersweet memory when he was the major league field coordinator for Pittsburgh in 2001, and the home opener when the Pirates played their first game at PNC Park. Willie Stargell, the MVP of the Pirates 1979 World Series championship team, died earlier that same day.

“We had just gotten news that Willie has passed away,” Banister said. “Willie was expected to be there, help open the ballpark. … You wake up and go to the ballpark and get the news that he had passed away was pretty sobering.”

___

12:00 p.m.

A small grease fire in the upper deck of Tropicana Field caused a smoky haze to fall over the playing field at the dome stadium five hours before the first pitch of the regular season opener between host Tampa Bay and Boston.

The smoke came out of a vent located below the second deck.

The Rays in a statement said the sprinklers were activated and the fire was extinguished, and the incident is not expected to impact game-day operations.

The St. Petersburg Fire Department responded to the fire, which did not stop the ground crew from preparing the field for pregame workouts.

Within an hour, much of the smoke had been cleared from the ballpark and several Rays’ players were playing catch in the outfield.

___

11:40 a.m.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo says the opening series of the season at Miami will be emotional for him as both teams honor victims of last month’s mass shooting at his former high school in Parkland, Florida.

The Cubs and Marlins are wearing patches with the initials “MSD” and 17 stars to honor the number of lives lost in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A large replica of the patch will be on the outfield wall at Marlins Park all season. Rizzo plans to host four families of victims of the shooting at Friday’s game.

Speaking before the opener, Rizzo praised as “amazing” the activism by students at the school in the wake of the tragedy. He says the students are holding politicians accountable, and the entire nation is rallying behind them. When asked about accusations the students are actually actors, Rizzo said those making such allegations are “losers.”

Rizzo says he attended a Stoneman Douglas baseball game Tuesday night and was motivated by their 15-0 victory.

___

11:30 a.m.

Rain was the early winner on opening day, with games at Comerica Park and Great American Ball Park postponed and gloomy skies threatening another at Citi Field.

All 30 teams in the majors had been scheduled to play Thursday. Jose Urena was set to throw the first pitch of the season, when Miami hosted the Chicago Cubs.

The Pittsburgh-Detroit game was washed out, as was the Washington-Cincinnati opener.

No weather worries in Toronto, where New York newcomer Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and the power-packed Yankees were facing the Blue Jays. J.D. Martinez was ready to make his debut when the Boston Red Sox took on Tampa Bay.

Justin Verlander and the World Series champion Houston Astros were at Texas, and lefty ace Clayton Kershaw led Los Angeles against San Francisco — provided the sewage problems that seeped into Dodger Stadium this week stayed away.

It was a somber setting in New York as the Mets prepared to host St. Louis on a rainy day. Hours earlier, the team announced that popular Mets star Rusty Staub had died at 73.

.