If Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister and hitting coach Anthony Iapoce wanted an exhibit of their offensive philosophy paying off they got it in Monday’s 3-2 Opening Day victory against the Seattle Mariners.
With Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on the mound, the Rangers were forced to scratch, claw and walk (a bunch) to eke out the win.
Y’all saw it today. Everybody was stingy [at the plate.] That’s a credit to [hitting coach Anthony] Iapoce, [assistant hitting coach Justin] Mashore and [manager Jeff Banister] for preaching that during spring training.
Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields
Oh, and a couple huge fifth-inning errors by the left side of the Mariners’ defense also proved disastrous for Seattle.
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The three-run rally started with a patient approach at the plate, exemplified by two of the lineup’s youngest hitters in Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields.
Odor, whose free-swinging was a big part of his slump that sent him to the minors early last season, showed maturity leading off the fifth, working a five-pitch walk, all on off-speed pitches from Hernandez.
“I was trying to see the ball up and in the middle and he threw me everything down and in so I took the walk,” Odor said.
Elvis Andrus reached on a fielding error by third baseman Kyle Seager to give the Rangers runners on the corners. Robinson Chirinos’ bunt on a safety squeeze was too hard back to the mound so Odor stayed at third while Andrus, who was running on the play, moved up to second. DeShields loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk, again, all off-speed pitches from Hernandez.
49,289Monday’s Globe Life Park attendance, which is the largest regular-season crowd since May 7, 2011 against the Yankees. The Rangers have drawn at least 48,000 for their home opener the past 17 seasons.
“I wanted to get a good pitch to hit and drive in two runs,” DeShields said. “But I knew what he was trying to do so I was just really stingy with my approach. He’s going to give me what I wanted or he’s going to walk me.”
Shin-Soo Choo remained stingy, too, and walked in the Rangers’ first run on five pitches. Prince Fielder’s bloop to shallow left field dropped to score Andrus and tie it at 2-2. It was the Rangers’ only hit.
“Felix was outstanding as usual and we were fortunate enough to get a couple walks there,” Fielder said. “It wasn’t pretty but it worked out.”
A year ago, the Rangers were held to one hit and one walk in an Opening Day loss at Oakland.
“We continued to grind at-bats out against a premier pitcher,” Banister said. “We did something today we weren’t capable of doing all year long last year and that’s put runs across the board against Felix. Iapoce and [assistant hitting coach Justin] Mashore have been pounding home to these guys to stay patient, stay on the ball, try to keep it in the middle of the field.”
The patient approach paid off in the fifth.
“Y’all saw it today. Everybody was stingy,” DeShields said. “That’s a credit to Iapoce, Mash and Banny for preaching that during spring training.”
Plays of the game
There were a couple nice defensive plays turned in by Rangers infielders, including a stop, spin and throw up the middle by Elvis Andrus in the third and an unassisted double play by Odor in the fifth.
Odor also made a big play in the ninth with Shawn Tolleson on the mound for the save. With Seager leading off, Odor was shaded toward the first-base line and was able to field a hard shot past first baseman Mitch Moreland, who dove to his right. Tolleson, in a full sprint, took a perfect throw at first for the first out of the inning.
“I’m just trying to bust it to the bag and he threw that thing what seemed liked 95 [mph] at me and with the shadows I don’t know how I caught it,” said Tolleson, who earned the save with a perfect ninth. “Luckily, he hit me in the chest and that’s where my glove was.”
Elias Sports Bureau says the Rangers are the first team to win on Opening Day with one or no hits since at least 1900. The only other time the Rangers won with one or fewer hits was July 27, 1993, at Kansas City. They won 1-0 on a seventh-inning Rafael Palmeiro homer.