Pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez was standing on the mound, holding the ball, as his infielders converged around him in the sixth inning Saturday night at Globe Life Park.
They were all waiting as Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister strolled toward them from the dugout. The 42,831 in attendance, the second-largest home crowd of the season, began to stand and cheer as Banister approached the mound.
Everyone in the ballpark knew Gonzalez was coming out of the game after he had held the Boston Red Sox scoreless through 5 2/3 innings in his major league debut. Especially Gonzalez, who tried giving Banister the ball the moment as he touched the mound.
Banister told him to wait.
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“He was getting ready to hand me the ball and I said, ‘No, no you can wait,’” Banister said. “I told him what a great job he did for us and how special it was.”
Banister put his hands on Gonzalez’s shoulders and told him to listen to the crowd.
“That’s for you,” Banister told him. “It’s getting ready to get real loud. Don’t ever forget this.”
With that, Gonzalez, a 23-year-old rookie, strode off the mound toward the dugout to a standing ovation after holding the Red Sox hitless through five innings.
He had surrendered just two hits, both in the sixth, as the Rangers beat the Red Sox 8-0 in his first big league start. Tanner Scheppers came in and struck out the final batter of the sixth to preserve the shutout, stranding runners at second and third.
Texas (25-25) pulled back to .500 and will go for its first winning record of the season in the series finale at 2:05 p.m. Sunday. The Rangers are trying to win their fourth consecutive series.
The Rangers’ offense collected 13 hits, including a 4-for-4 night from utility infielder Adam Rosales. Delino DeShields had three hits and Leonys Martin had two hits and two RBIs. Robinson Chirinos’ two-run double in a four-run fourth gave Gonzalez a 5-0 lead.
He threw 102 pitches (60 strikes) and became the first Rangers starter to throw at least five no-hit innings in his major league debut since Roger Pavlik on May 2, 1992. The pitch count and Napoli’s double forced Banister to make the move.
“It meant a lot,” Gonzalez said. “He kind of slowed it down for me. I saw the manager coming in and was going to give him the ball and go, but he slowed me down and made me enjoy what was happening.”
Gonzalez, who nearly made the roster out of spring training, has been a highly touted prospect in the organization since he was the No. 23 overall pick in the 2013 draft. His status on the big league roster is his to lose, general manager Jon Daniels said.
“I kind of knew he would be successful when he did come up,” veteran pitcher Colby Lewis said. “Seeing him in spring training, how composed he was on the mound, how cool, calm and collected. When you’re able to put that together at a young age you’re able to go out there and be successful. His stuff is really, really good. It’s all a good recipe to have success. He’s a really good kid. He goes about his business the right way.”
If Gonzalez was nervous during his first start he only showed it with some command issues. He walked five, struck out two and left only after two doubles in the sixth, including David Ortiz’s lead-off drive that broke up his no-hitter. Banister made his visit after Napoli later doubled to put runners on second and third with two outs.
“What Chi Chi did is as we expected him to do,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. “No surprises at all. If he had the butterflies swirling you didn’t know it. Sometimes you have to be an actor out there, and he won an Oscar if he was nervous.”
The veteran slugger Ortiz clapped and nodded to Gonzalez in a show of admiration.
“It was bittersweet that I did I give it up, but it was to Big Papi,” said Gonzalez, who had more than 30 friends and family in attendance. “He looked at me and I looked at him and he gave me a little clap and head nod, which was awesome ... it made me fit in a little bit.”
Gonzalez and the Rangers hope Saturday night marks the beginning of a long big league career.
“I just heard a buzz. I wasn’t expecting the loudness of it, but it was awesome having the support of Rangers Nation,” Gonzalez said of the fans’ salute. “It was awesome having them scream for me and support me even though I’m the new guy. It just made feel at home. I want to be here and stay here.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760