ARLINGTON — On a picture-perfect Friday afternoon at the ballyard, another kind of picture came into immediate focus.The Texas Rangers are what they said they would be, or at least they were in a 3-2 win over the LA Angels, creating a jubilant Opening Day scene for a sold-out house of 48,000-plus.Out of necessity or desperation, manager Ron Washington has rebranded his club, which is now featuring a concept of pitching, and defense, and yes, forcing the action.And so it was in this Arlington 2013 debut. Pitching. Defense. And …In a delightful scene, the grand finale came down to forcing Josh Hamilton, called way out west over the winter by God and $125 million, to make a play from mid-range right field.Josh failed that assignment and all other assignments on this particular afternoon, when the boos and catcalls from the local fandom rained down on him constantly.This couldn’t have been better scripted:A tight and tied game in the eighth inning, two outs, the speedy Craig Gentry on second, and Ian Kinsler singled sharply to right, where Josh was playing shallow.“One of the fastest guys in the league against one of the best arms in the league. It doesn’t get much better than that,” noted third base coach Gary Pettis, who never hesitated in windmilling Gentry around the bag.Forcing the action, yes. But with two outs, it was basically the right percentage play by Pettis, although as shallow as Josh was playing, it was a 50/50 coin flip.As it turned out, Gentry wasn’t necessarily paying attention to his third base coach.“I wasn’t stopping for nothing,” he said. “I wouldn’t have seen the stop sign if I had gotten it.”Hamilton: “He’s at second, he’s fast, and I didn’t think I had a shot at him anyway.”Actually, he’s wrong. The throw beat the runner to the plate, but it short-hopped catcher Chris Iannetta, and Gentry easily slid in with the winning run after closer Joe Nathan had an uneventful ninth by retiring the likes of Albert Pujols and, yes, Josh.Hamilton had an 0-for-4 day with two strikeouts against starter Derek Holland, plus had some strange fielding adventures in making a rare right field appearance in this ballpark.Speaking of forcing the action, Gentry was perched on second in the eighth because he stole the base after singling with one out.When everyone in an Angels uniform knew Gentry would be going, he stole it anyway, and did so off a left-handed pitcher, Scott Downs.“I’ve always got the green light unless I’m told otherwise,” Gentry said. “I was trying to get a good look at [Downs’] move, and wanted to see a few pitches. I was able to get the jump.”The jump, and the easy swipe, came on an 0-2 pitch to pinch hitter Jeff Baker, who eventually struck out, bringing up Kinsler.Of interest is that Kinsler’s game-winning hit came on a sharply hit ball the other way. Driving pitches to right field is a Kinsler priority for this season, after a rather dismal season a year ago based on previous standards.In his sprint to first base after the hit, Kinsler saw where Hamilton fielded the ball, but he had no doubt what was happening in the area that he couldn’t see.“I knew [Gentry] was going all the way,” he said. “That’s Baseball 101 with two outs. We had to take that chance, and it’s not like we didn’t have a lot of speed headed for the plate.”If there’s a highlight for the afternoon, Rangers-wise, that had to be the work of Holland, the you-never-know left-hander considered the most critical rotation piece because of the need for a strong third starter.Seven innings, two runs on six hits, and five strikeouts with only a lone walk, that was Holland’s stellar pitching line.The potent Angels lineup isn’t exactly thumping here in the early go but when Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo (the 3-4-5 hitters) were held to a combined 0 for 8 by Holland, that fueled his outstanding afternoon.Do note also that Tanner Scheppers came out of the grab-bag Rangers bullpen and had a strong shutdown eighth inning in a tie game.Pitching. Defense. Forcing the action.Publicly, Washington doesn’t market that theme. His postgame comment was, “I wouldn’t say that’s the blueprint … I don’t want anyone to clone us as just one kind of team. We’re the kind of team that will play whatever kind of baseball is being played that day.”But obviously, the bash is no longer prevalent, although an Adrian Beltre solo blast was needed in the seventh to get the game tied.So far, however, the results are trending to pitching, defense and forcing the action.With Angels starter Jason Vargas working into the sixth inning, and departing with a 2-1 lead, the Rangers have scored only five runs against the four starters they’ve faced so far, all of those starters having worked at least five innings.Home Opening Day put this particular picture into focus.And the grand finale of Hamilton’s arm vs. Gentry’s speed was a thrilling way to wrap up the afternoon, particularly for the home team.Josh lost the challenge. Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.
Randy Galloway, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @sportsdfw