HOUSTON -- There are many starts to go before left-hander Dallas Keuchel can erase the stain of his subpar 2016 season, a campaign that included a string of inconsistent performances before coming to an abrupt end via an injury.
On Monday night, Keuchel took the first step on the path to redemption, working seven shutout innings and riding two solo home runs as the Houston Astros claimed a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park.
Keuchel (1-0) delivered a performance reminiscent of his Cy Young campaign in 2015, allowing two hits and two walks while getting four strikeouts and 11 ground-ball outs. He mixed in his usual stellar defense, initiating a double play after plunking Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager with a pitch to open the seventh inning.
Keuchel followed by pouncing on a Leonys Martin bunt attempt one batter later before firing to first to nip Martin and end the inning.
When Keuchel loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, he also induced a ground-ball out from Martin to snuff that Mariners threat and close a laborious 26-pitch inning. He faced the minimum in his last three innings.
"He didn't really get taxed at all until the fourth inning and then he had to fight through a lot," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Keuchel. "His ability to get through the next couple innings in relative form was pretty big for us.
"Obviously, he's going to field his position very well, but after a big inning where he didn't get hurt but he did have a lot of volume, I thought his stuff maintained until the end when he got a little tired. He was just really good."
Center fielder George Springer put the Astros ahead to stay with his blast to left field off Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (0-1) leading off the first inning. In the fourth, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa cranked a leadoff dinger 449 feet to left field and out of Minute Maid Park, doubling the Houston lead to 2-0.
Correa finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs, including a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Astros closer Ken Giles secured the save by striking out the side in the ninth.
"We chased some balls outside of the zone, but it's Opening Day," Mariners manager Scott Servais 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."
Before departing after five innings with groin tightness, Hernandez was relatively sharp. He did not walk a batter, had six strikeouts and allowed five hits.
It was a defensive play that caused Hernandez trouble in the fourth, as he scurried to cover first base on a ground ball to the right side by Josh Reddick.
Servais made a mound visit to check on Hernandez, but he remained in the game and recorded the next four outs in succession to cap a 65-pitch outing.
"It just got a little tight," Hernandez said. "I'll be all right. I'm going to be OK.
"I made one mistake, and it was to Springer. The other one was a good pitch to Correa, and he put a good swing on it. I was like, 'Get out,' but it stayed fair. It was unbelievable. Pretty good swing."
Injury aside, Hernandez delivered what the Mariners sought. Keuchel just happened to be better, and that was what he and the Astros longed to witness.
"I know what I'm capable of doing when I'm healthy," Keuchel said. "I know how bad I can be when I'm not healthy. I knew I was good coming in and I was just hoping to get the team off to a good start."
NOTES: The Mariners recalled RHP Chase De Jong from Triple-A Tacoma to replace LHP Dillon Overton on the active roster. Overton was placed on the paternity list and will rejoin the team after the birth of his first child. De Jong, 15-5 with a 2.82 ERA over two levels in the Dodgers' minor league system in 2016, was on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. ... Astros RHP Collin McHugh completed a bullpen session on Monday and is scheduled to make a rehab start on Thursday for Triple-A Fresno. McHugh is on the 10-day disabled list after arriving for spring training with a dead arm. He is scheduled to work 5-6 innings or throw between 80-85 pitches during his start. ... With his 10th career leadoff home run, Astros CF George Springer became the first player with a leadoff homer on Opening Day since Terry Puhl in 1980 against the Dodgers.