Texas Rangers

Rangers turn one hit, quality pitching into opening 3-2 victory over Mariners

Cole Hamels, right, celebrating with Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus, was the cream of the crop while giving up four hits in seven innings for his first Opening Day victory.
Cole Hamels, right, celebrating with Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus, was the cream of the crop while giving up four hits in seven innings for his first Opening Day victory. rmallison@star-telegram.com

The one hit the Texas Rangers collected Monday afternoon went about 150 feet. Maybe.

Their team batting average after Game 1 of 162 is a robust .037. Eight players are batting .000.

But the Rangers’ record is 1-0.

They found a way on Opening Day to beat the Seattle Mariners 3-2, becoming the first team since at least 1900 to win their season opener with fewer than two hits, and they didn’t stray too far away from the preseason blueprint designed for them to defend their American League West title.

The Rangers had only one hit Monday, but they worked five walks from Felix Hernandez and scored three times in the sixth en route to a 3-2 win (video by Jeff Wilson).

Do whatever it takes on offense, though presumably with more than one hit a game, and get quality work from the rotation and turn it over to what could be one of the league’s best bullpens.

It was on display for 49,289 at a sold-out Globe Life Park.

Preliminary research by the Elias Sport Bureau shows that the Rangers are the first team in baseball history since at least 1900 to win on Opening Day despite have fewer than two hits. The win was the second in club history with fewer than two hits. The other came July 27, 1993, one hit in a 1-0 win at Kansas City.

The Rangers took advantage of some unusual wildness by Seattle ace Felix Hernandez and two Mariners errors to score three times in the fifth inning, and Cole Hamels allowed two runs in seven innings before Jake Diekman and Shawn Tolleson finished off the victory.

“With a guy like Felix, you take it anyway you can get it,” designated hitter Prince Fielder said. “I’m just glad Cole pitched a great game. Without that, we would have been in trouble.”

Fielder had the only hit, a fifth-inning blooper to shallow left field that beat a shifted infield and an outfield that was playing deep. It tied the game at 2 and wasn’t the oddest thing that happened in the fifth.

Bloopers happen. So do errors, and the Mariners had two as the Rangers rallied from a 2-0 deficit. But Hernandez doesn’t walk three batters in one inning, and it takes batters who stay with their approach to make it happen.

Prince Fielder gives a comical breakdown of his bloop single Monday that served as the Rangers' only hit in a 3-2 win (video by Jeff Wilson).

The inning started with a walk to Rougned Odor, who stole second base, and was followed by an error on Kyle Seager that allowed Elvis Andrus to reach. After a safety squeeze by Robinson Chirinos failed to bring in a run, Delino DeShields walked to load the bases with one out.

Hernandez then walked Shin-Soo Choo to bring in a run, and Fielder followed with the hit that scored Andrus.

For us to get those walks, those are big at-bats. I know we didn’t get hits, but for us to get on base and keep the line moving, sometimes that’s how you have to get it done.

Rangers DH Prince Fielder

“I went up there with the plan of just dumping it right over the infield,” Fielder said, initially with a straight face. “I brought my body over here to make it go over there. That’s just good hitting.”

Hernandez looked like he would escape in a tie when Adrian Beltre sent a double play grounder directly to shortstop Ketel Marte, but he booted it as DeShields crossed home for the 3-2 lead that would send Hernandez to his first loss in nine career starts in lid-lifters.

Our confidence level is high. At the same time, we understand that for an entire bullpen to stay healthy takes a lot of work. We’re hoping we can just continue to feed off of each other.

Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson

Hamels stranded runners at second base in the sixth and seventh, doing some of his best pitching after Robinson Cano lined a homer into the right-field stands with two outs in the first and Seager started the second with a homer to the 407 sign in center field.

Left-hander Cole Hamels had to strand the potential tying run at second base in the sixth and seventh innings (video by Jeff Wilson).

“I got them off to a good start,” said Hamels, who struck out eight and walked three. “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.”

Hamels finished at 104 pitches but needed a strikeout of pinch-hitter Dae-Ho Lee and a grounder to second by Nori Aoki to get out of the seventh. Hamels entered the game 0-2 in Opening Day starts with an 8.10 ERA.

11 Consecutive regular season wins for the Rangers when Cole Hamels is the starting pitcher. They won his final 10 starts in 2015.

Diekman came back from a 3-0 count on his first batter, Marte, to toss a perfect eighth, which included a strikeout of Cano, and Tolleson struck out the last two batters in the ninth after combining with Odor on a 4-1 putout to get the dangerous Seager leading off the inning.

“Our confidence level is high,” Tolleson said. “At the same time, we understand that for an entire bullpen to stay healthy takes a lot of work. We’re hoping we can just continue to feed off of each other.”

Do whatever it takes on offense, get good starting pitching and turn it over to what could be one of the best bullpens in the AL. That was the preseason blueprint, and the Rangers followed it in their 2016 season opener.

“That’s kind of living up to the mantra we have, Never Ever Quit,” Hamels said. “If you can’t get the hits, you’ve got to get the walks and just try to get guys around. That’s what we were able to do. At the end of the day, a victory on Opening Day is exactly what we were wanting.”

Diane Streat took her children and grandchildren to Rangers Opening Day games for nearly 20 years. With her recent passing, her daughter, Glynnis, is determined to continue the family tradition in her honor.

Rangers vs. Mariners

7 p.m. Tuesday, FSSW, 105.3 FM

Martin Perez (3-6, 4.46 ERA in 2015) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (9-5, 3.54)

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