Pitcher Sam Dyson shoulders blame for Rangers' loss on Opening Day
It was Opening Night and the ballpark was packed, as befits a franchise that has been to the postseason five times in seven seasons.
The red, white and blue bunting was draped from the center field balconies. The AL West championship flag was raised.
Coach Tony Beasley, an inspiring story himself, sang a soul-soaring rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” A team of T-38 jets from Sheppard Air Force Base executed a regal flyover.
On this Opening Night, it appeared to all be there for the Texas Rangers.
Three home runs in three innings. Co-ace Yu Darvish on the mound. The crowd roaring. The home team winning.
But in the end, the Rangers were overcome by a familiar nemesis: the smell of their own pitching.
Neither Darvish nor the team’s two best relievers, Matt Bush and Sam Dyson, could hold a 5-3 lead Monday night.
The Cleveland Indians scored five times in the final three innings and soured the night’s festivities with an 8-5 victory.
On a night when you score five runs and knock three out of the park off 18-game winner Corey Kluber, you have to be able to win.
But Darvish walked five in six-plus innings, and Bush allowed Cleveland to tie the score on Edwin Encarnacion’s eighth-inning solo homer.
And in a battle of the bullpens, the Indians are going to prevail nearly every time. It is what they do — they chip away at your starter for six innings and then let the dogs out.
Darvish allowed only four hits, which should have been good enough to win. But the five walks and two wild pitches were a window to the kind of off-kilter night he was having.
He has to be better — not necessarily shutout better, but more consistent, more dominating, more Kershaw-like, if he expects to one day be paid like Clayton Kershaw.
Darvish has nights like Monday, nights when his command escapes him and his pitch count escalates. His periodic lapses with consistency are his only drawbacks.
Darvish has dominating stuff — when he allows it to work for him.
It was the performances of the two relievers, however, that left the foulest odor in the room. And the most unexpected.
For nearly two months of spring training, Bush and Dyson were practically untouchable. Bush efficiently mowed down everything he faced in Arizona while Dyson, pitching for Team USA, stared down the world.
Bush came in to get the final two outs in the seventh inning and then was sent back out for the eighth. The Indians’ Michael Brantley took Bush to the warning track, where his fly ball was caught by Carlos Gomez but Encarnacion, the old Toronto nemesis, followed with a towering home run deep into the left-field seats.
Dyson’s ragged ninth inning — four of seven batters reached base — sealed the deal for Cleveland.
It might be unfair to lump a portion of this on Keone Kela, whose behavior led him to be demoted to Triple A, instead of finishing the seventh inning Monday night.
Maybe Bush, starting the eighth inning fresh, doesn’t get careless with Encarnacion. Maybe Dyson pitches the ninth like Dyson.
But it didn’t happen. Despite all the bunting and the singing and the jets flying overhead, the Rangers eventually succumbed to an overpowering and familiar force. You know the smell.