April 06, 2013

Impressions of the Texas Rangers’ Home Opener

By Dic Humphrey

Texas Rangers logoARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels in their home opener Friday afternoon 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 48,845. Ian Kinsler broke a 2-2 tie with an eighth inning single that scored Craig Gentry from second base. Joe Nathan retired three of four batters he faced in the ninth to save the game for Tanner Scheppers (1-0), who pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief of starter Derek Holland. The win improved the Rangers’ record to 3-1, while the Angels dropped to 1-3.

Gentry started for the second time this season in center field, and once again made his offensive presence known. He singled to right field with one out in the eighth, a softly hit “Texas Leaguer.” He then stole second base, even with lefty Scott Downs holding him close at first, and scored on a very close play at home when Kinsler singled. Downs (0-2) took the loss for the Angels.

Los Angeles starter Jason Vargas was in and out of trouble seemingly the entire day. He gave up eight hits and walked two more batters in 5-2/3rds innings, but allowed just one run as the Rangers simply could not score runners once they reached base. Texas finished the game with 11 runners left on base, an average of almost 1.5 per inning. Vargas departed with a shot to be the winning pitcher as the Angels led 2-1. Adrian Beltre erased his chance for the win, when he tied the game with a seventh inning blast into the left field stands off Angels’ reliever Garrett Richards. The round tripper was Beltre’s first and the Rangers’ second home run of the season.

Derek Holland was the Rangers’ starter, and he was outstanding. He completed seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits, while walking one. He recorded five strikeouts. The victim for two of his strikeouts was his former teammate Josh Hamilton. The worry about the Rangers’ rotation when the season started was three and four starters Holland and Alexi Ogando. It’s just one time through the rotation, but the first  indications are goods as both pitched extremely well. Ogando tossed six shutout innings Wednesday night.

Much of the attention on the day was on Hamilton, always a lightning rod for attention. Fans for sure haven’t forgotten his offensive meltdown late last season that led to the Rangers’ collapse. He then incited fans just a couple of weeks ago in an interview with Channel 11’s Gina Miller, saying that Dallas was not a baseball town. Hamilton was booed when the players were introduced prior to the game, though he politely clapped for his former teammates as they were introduced. He also exchanged salutes with Ranger manager Ron Washington after his intro.

The boos turned to cheers in the second inning when Hamilton led off with an ugly strikeout. The clamor was even louder in the fourth when he struck out again. Late in the game, the fans in right field chanted loudly “baseball town” and “Sherlock’s,” the latter in reference to his drinking incident two Januarys ago. Hamilton admitted after the game that the crowd reaction was more severe than he anticipated.

In the end though, it was a thoroughly entertaining, well-played game on a perfect day weather-wise. The stadium temperature was in the 60s all afternoon, and the sun shone bright. Both teams played well as neither committed an error. For the Rangers, it was their third straight errorless game after Nelson Cruz committed an outfield error in last Sunday’s opener in Houston.

The series continues this weekend with a 3:05 p.m. game on Saturday and a 7:05 p.m. start time on Sunday. Saturday’s game will be shown on FOX with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver at the microphone. Rangers’ opening day starter Matt Harrison (0-1) squares off against Tommy Hanson, making his first start of the year.  Sunday’s game is ESPN’s Sunday night national telecast. Yu Darvish (1-0) will face the Angels’ opening day starter Jered Weaver (0-0).

 

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