After a terrible 2015, Dallas Keuchel desperately wanted to get off to a good start.
He did just that, allowing two hits over seven innings before Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles completed the three-hitter for the Houston Astros in an opening 3-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Monday night.
Keuchel (1-0) went 9-12 with a 4.55 ERA last year after winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015. He struck out four in winning on opening day for the third year in a row.
Last year, he didn't pitch after Aug. 27 because of shoulder inflammation.
"I know what I'm capable of doing when I'm healthy. I know how bad I can be when I'm not healthy," he said. "I knew I was good coming in and I was just hoping to get the team off to a good start."
Manager A.J. Hinch thinks Keuchel's struggles last season gave his ace an extra edge entering this year.
"I think he comes into this season with a little chip on his shoulder, and rightfully so," Hinch said. "For him on opening day I think he wants to set a tone for the club. I think he wanted to show that every five days when he gets the ball our team is going to rally behind him. It's certainly nice to have that as opposed to me sitting up here explaining a rough outing. And he responded in incredible fashion."
Gregerson allowed a hit and Giles walked one with three strikeouts for the save.
George Springer became Houston's first player since Terry Puhl in 1980 to lead off the first game with a home run. Carlos Correa homered and drove in two runs as Houston won on opening day for the fifth straight year.
Felix Hernandez (0-1), making his 10th opening day start, allowed two runs and five hits while striking out six in five innings before leaving with tightness in a groin. Hernandez pulled up after racing to cover first base for the second out of the fourth inning on Josh Reddick's grounder. Hernandez was looked at by trainers and threw a couple of warmup pitches before finishing the inning.
He returned to pitch a 1-2-3 fifth inning, then was replaced by Nick Vincent.
Hernandez said he will make his next turn in the rotation.
"It just got a little tight," he said. "I'll be all right. I'm going to be OK."
Springer hit his 10th leadoff home run. Correa made it 2-0 in the fourth with a 449-foot drive that sailed over the train tracks atop left field, then hit a sacrifice in the sixth.
Keuchel retired his first 10 batters before Robinson Cano singled and Nelson Cruz walked. A two-out walk by Danny Valencia loaded the bases, but Keuchel retired Leonys Martin on a groundout.
Despite struggles at the plate on Monday night, Seattle manager Scott Servais isn't worried about his lineup.
"We chased some balls outside of the zone, but it's opening day," he said. "Guys are fired up. They want to make an impact. They want to make a difference, and we got away from our game plan a little bit in that regard."
Astros: Houston starter Collin McHugh is to make am injury rehabilitation start on Thursday at Triple-A Fresno. McHugh opened the season on the 10-day disabled list because he experienced "dead arm" this spring. The Astros hope he will need just one start before returning to the rotation.
Seattle reliever Chase DeJong got called up from Triple-A Tacoma for his first stint in the majors on Monday because fellow reliever Dillon Overton went on the paternity list in anticipation of the birth of his first child.
DeJong was thrilled for the opportunity and is prepared to thank Overton for the opportunity this provided for him.
"I'm definitely buying him a baby gift," he said with a smile.
Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled to pitch for Seattle on Tuesday in the second game of this four-game series. Iwakuma went 16-12 with a 4.12 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 33 starts last season.
Astros: Lance McCullers is slated to pitch for Houston on Tuesday. McCullers was 6-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 starts last year in a season plagued by injuries.