Astros bask in no-hitter, get set to play Jays again

With right-handers Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy opening this season on the injured list, Astros right-hander Ronel Blanco was presented with an opportunity that had escaped him previously in his career: to begin a campaign as a member of Houston’s rotation.

Blanco, making just his eighth career start, threw the 17th no-hitter in club history to lead the Astros to their first win of the season, 10-0 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

The two teams will be at it again on Tuesday night in Houston.

Monday night’s game marked the third time Blanco, 30, made the Opening Day roster with Houston. But as a starter, things were different.

He embraced the opportunity at hand. He limited the Blue Jays to two walks while recording seven strikeouts and tossing 105 pitches. Blanco retired 26 consecutive batters between his leadoff walk to George Springer in the first inning and his two-out walk to Springer in the ninth.

Blanco flexed a dominating three-pitch mix, blending an effective changeup with his four-seam fastball and slider. The no-hitter capped a whirlwind week of personal highs, from making the rotation out of spring training to the birth of his daughter.

“I see it as a great blessing, a great blessing for me and my family in the arrival of my daughter,” Blanco said through an interpreter. “I see it as a life-changing experience, and I dedicate this to my family and my daughter.”

On the heels of suffering a four-game sweep to the New York Yankees, a series in which the Houston bullpen was saddled with each loss, Blanco provided the relievers a welcome night off.

“We needed that, and Blanco stepped up and gave us an incredible start and performance,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “What a week he has had, and I’m happy for him and his family.”

Left-hander Framber Valdez (0-0, 5.79 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Tuesday. He did not factor into the decision of a 5-4 loss to the Yankees on Opening Day after allowing three runs on five hits and six walks with five strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings.

Valdez took the loss in his lone start against the Blue Jays last season, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 3-2 setback on June 8. He is 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA over four career starts against Toronto with 20 strikeouts and 11 walks in 23 innings.

Right-hander Jose Berrios (1-0, 3.00 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Blue Jays on Tuesday. He allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts over six innings in an 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day.

Berrios faced the Astros twice last season, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts over 13 innings while going 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA. In nine career starts against Houston, he is 5-4 with a 4.24 ERA.

The Blue Jays rested shortstop Bo Bichette for a second consecutive game on Monday after he was a late scratch in the series finale against the Rays with neck spasms. Bichette is receiving treatment, but the club is taking a cautious approach regarding his return to the starting lineup.

“He’s as durable as they come,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “It’s just a weird thing.

“He was better (Monday) than (Sunday). You don’t want to have anything blow up, so just being careful with that.”