The Texas Rangers faced division rival Houston to open up the season and fell 4-1 after a good outing from Astros starter, Justin Verlander.
The Rangers were set to square off against in state rival and reigning World Series champs, Houston to open up the 2018 campaign. With questions swirling around all aspects of the Rangers roster, Texas lost 4-1 in a game where they just looked overmatched. Here are our 3 Takeaways from today’s game.
Hamels’ Fastball Struggles
Cole Hamels took the mound for an Opening Day start for the Rangers facing a Houston Astros lineup full of hitting talent. Through the first 3 innings, Hamels struggled to locate his fastball which never really topped 90 MPH throughout his start. These location struggles were apparent from the jump with George Springer sending a leadoff homerun to right field. Hamels continued to miss the zone early walking four on the day including three in the 3rd inning. A manufactured run in the 3rd and a solo homer from Jake Marisnick in the 4th accounted for the three earned runs charged to Hamels. The Rangers starter battled back eventually throwing 5.2 innings and striking out seven Astros while doing it.
Please, Please, Please Learn To Bunt
Last season, the Rangers lefty-laden lineup was one that saw a lot of defensive shifts. This trend continued and even was exaggerated with Houston opting for a four man outfield to face Texas first baseman Joey Gallo. This extreme shift meant that there was not a single infielder to the left side of second base. Not a single one. Despite what would surely be an automatic single, Gallo along with Shin-Soo Choo swung away going a combined 1-8. To be fair Odor also saw this shift and swung away but at least reached base twice in three at bats.
The argument against bunting in this situation is that limiting your best power hitter to bunt singles is wasting his power. I stand on the other side of this argument in that power means nothing when you go 0-4. Taking advantage of these shifts could get runners on base and decrease the use of the shift over time.
The Bullpen Might Be Okay
Last season the Rangers had more than their fair share of issues. Without a doubt, the bullpen’s problems seemed to be the worst. According the ESPN, the Rangers bullpen had the 3rd highest ERA in baseball, finishing the year at 4.76. Texas made some moves to bolster the bullpen this offseason adding, Chris Martin, Kevin Jepsen and Jesse Chavez, but largely flew under the radar.
Despite no obvious big name signings, the bullpen looked good in their collective debut for the season. Out of the bullpen Jose Leclerc, Chris Martin, Matt Bush and Kevin Jepsen all saw action and went a combined 3.1 innings with one hit and one earned run (both charged to Matt Bush) among them. The ‘pen also struck out six batters in those 3.1 innings. This is by no means a large sample size. However, Martin and Jepsen both put up strong outings with quality stuff. In his one batter faced Jose Leclerc struck out Evan Gattis on three pitches. If Texas’ bullpen can look even close to as strong as they did today, it would boost to a pitching staff that is largely regarded as pretty average.
Doug Fister is expected to make the start in game 2 tomorrow facing Houston’s Dallas Keuchel. First pitch is set for 7:05 CT.
Let us know what you thought of the Rangers season opener in the comments below.