Opening Day is in the books for the Texas Rangers, who somehow managed to squeeze out a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners despite collecting one hit.
Someone cue up Harry Doyle.
Prince Fielder had the one hit, a 150-foot blooper that would have been an out as recently as five years ago before the infield shift became a thing. Instead, the Rangers avoided getting no-hit for a second straight lid-lifter but this time actually won.
In so doing, the Rangers became the first team in the modern era to win on Opening Day while collecting fewer than two hits. Thanks, Elias Sports Bureau.
There was more to it that just the one hit, which brings us to the inaugural Rangers Reaction. It might be three thoughts. It might be six. That will probably depend on when last call is and/or how early the alarm is set to go off.
And just as Sterling Archer isn’t married to The Figgis Agency, we’re not married to Rangers Reaction. Name suggestions? We’ll take them (Rangersy McReactionface has already been declined).
For now, here is Rangers Reaction from Opening Day.
1. Cole Hamels’ start — seven innings, two earned runs, four hits, three walks, eight strikeouts — was a departure from his previous two Opening Day starts — 10 innings, nine earned, two losses — and might be the first step toward his goal of starting a season better.
He said during spring training that it was his plan to throw all his pitches from the outset, rather than dusting each one off a spring start at a time. The hope was that his stuff would be sharper and his command would be better earlier in the season.
Hamels, who allowed solo homers to Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, entered Monday only 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in the first nine April starts of his career. His career April ERA is the highest of any month.
I got them off to a good start. At the same time, I’ve got to be able to manage the game, and I think that’s kind of what I was able to do throughout the game.
Rangers lefty Cole Hamels
Monday’s outing is only one start, so he’s got a way to go before anyone can declare his April woes a thing of the past. But it is something worth revisiting.
2. The one-hit thing can’t ignored, but too much is probably being made of it. Of course, it’s Opening Day, and too much is made of just about everything.
That’s baseball. Stuff happens. Really strange stuff.
“It was a weird game,” Fielder said.
Just as weird as the one hit is that Felix Hernandez walked five, including three in the three-run sixth. Or is it weird? The last time he walked five was his second to last start of 2015, a 9-2 win, but it came against the Rangers.
He didn’t walk five in any game in 2014 and had just one in 2013, against the Rangers.
I went up there with the plan of just dumping it right over the infield. I brought my body over here to make it go over there. That’s just good hitting.
Rangers DH Prince Fielder
Three of his past four five-walk games have been against the Rangers, who have beaten him more times than (22) than any other team. Second on the list is Anaheim, which has beaten the King 14 times.
Adrian Beltre said that Hernandez’s fastball was cutting more than usual, which is unusual, and that his mechanics were off. If anyone knows Hernandez, it’s Beltre.
Don’t lose track of the fact that the Rangers took five walks, meaning they stayed within their approach and were smart enough to realize that Hernandez was searching in the sixth inning. They took advantage and are 1-0 despite having only one hit.
3. Jake Diekman blew through the eighth inning, albeit after throwing three straight balls to open his 2016 debut. Then, Shawn Tolleson came in and was even better, getting Rangers killer Seager on a nifty 4-1 putout with Rougned Odor and following up with two strikeouts.
As Tolleson warmed up, though, so did Sam Dyson in the bullpen. Asked about it afterward, manager Jeff Banister said that Tolleson was going to pitch as long as he was still in a position for the save.
Had Seattle tied the game or gone ahead, Dyson would have entered.
Was that a lack of confidence in Tolleson, who probably received an incomplete mark in spring training, or just preparing for everything? Probably the latter, though Tolleson didn’t pitch for a week or so in March because of back stiffness, and didn’t have the cleanest of outings when he did pitch.
But the guy who collected 35 saves in 2015, despite not getting the closer’s job until May 20, was clean Monday. He’s the closer, even if someone is warming up behind him.