by Andrew Ferraro
Daily Cougar Staff
With many writers and baseball critics across America picking the Houston Astros to win the National League Central division, the 1996 season opener was a sour note with a Astros loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in the Astrodome Monday.
When manager Terry Collins announced that right-handed pitcher and former Houston Cougar Doug Drabek would not start due to a hamstring injury, Shane Reynolds was given the nod to try to defeat the defending Western division champions.
Through the first four innings of Monday's game, it appeared that Reynolds and the Astros had Los Angeles' number.
The Astros started things off in the bottom of the second inning when third baseman Sean Berry scored on an Orlando Miller RBI single.
Then with one out in the top of the fifth inning, Dodgers center fielder Brett Butler started things off with a hit and later scored on an Eric Karros single.
After walking third baseman Mike Blowers, left fielder Todd Hollandsworth doubled to the gap in left-center scoring Karros, Raul Mondesi, and Blowers.
Blowers was thrown out while attempting to extend his double into a triple.
After yielding the four runs on five hits, Reynolds was relieved by former University of Houston pitcher Anthony Young to start the sixth inning.
Through two innings, Young did not allow any runs on three hits in his relief effort.
The Astros' bats were silenced until the sixth when first baseman Jeff Bagwell hit his first home run of the season on a 1-1 pitch from Dodgers starter Ramon Martinez.
Following the home run by Bagwell, right fielder Derrick Bell tripled to the gap in right center and later scored on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Derrick May.
After the two-run sixth, the Astros were not able to reach base for the remainder of the contest. Four of the nine struck out, including Miller, who was caught looking to end the game.
Monday's game marked the 24th time that the Astros have opened their season at the Astrodome. It was the eighth time that the Astros have opened their season against the Dodgers, having won the last one 4-3 in the Astrodome in 1987.
The Astros will play two more games against the Dodgers starting with today's 7:05 p.m. game.
Houston will wrap up the series against Los Angeles on Wednesday with another businessman's special 1:35 p.m. start.
On the mound for the Astros tonight will be last year's co-leader in wins, Greg Swindell, who compiled a record of 10-9 last season with an ERA of 4.47 in exactly 153 innings of work.
In four starts, he was 0-2 against the Dodgers last season, most recently losing the July 24 contest in the Astrodome, 6-5.
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