The Texas Rangers held their final Opening Day at Globe Life Park. What are the takeaways from game one of the 2019 regular season?
I was not at the first Opening Day ever at the Ballpark in Arlington. But I can say I was at the last Opening Day ever at the Ballpark. Though I wasn’t there in 1994, I imagine our baseball temple for the last 25 years was as beautiful today as it was then.
The only two things that could have made Thursday any better were a Rangers win and a present Adrian Beltre at third base.
Beltre’s absence was clearly felt; he was very well represented throughout the stadium on Opening Day. In the pre-game hype video overlayed by music and some lines from an Avengers: Endgame trailer, one part said, “Even if there’s a small chance… We owe this to everyone who’s not in this room.” At that point footage from Beltre’s 3,000 hit and a tip of the helmet by him from that day played on the video board. Wow. Did anyone else there have goosebumps or was that just me? Unfortunately, that may have been the best moment of the day.
Things got off to a great start for Texas. The Rangers were making some contact and taking a walk or two. Mike Minor was cruising through 3+ innings. Elvis Andrus hit a line drive home run to give the Rangers the lead. Even though Javier Baez just barely hit a ball out off the end of the bat in the 4th, the Rangers looked to be in good shape.
Things unraveled in the 5th, however. Minor got into a bit of trouble, the defense struggled a bit up the middle, and Jessie Chavez, who was called in to stop the bleeding, instead gave up a 3-run home run on his first pitch to Baez.
The foundation for a perfect day was fracturing.
The bullpen followed suit behind Chavez. Combined, relievers threw 4.1 IP, allowing 6 ER on 8 hits and 6 walks. The one bright spot from that group might have been Shawn Kelley, though he only faced one batter. But his stuff looked really good (from the third deck, at least).
After a game like this, it’s common for fans to wonder, “Is this a precursor to a long 162-game season?”
One game on a schedule should never be treated as a microcosm in and of itself. That’s part of the beauty of baseball. It’s a long season. Still, there are things we can observe and takeaway even after a mere 1/162 of a campaign being played.
Elvis Andrus looked like 2017 Elvis
Elvis hit the ball well Thursday. He hit a couple of balls hard including one into the Rangers’ bullpen. This was also after a spring where the ball jumped off his bat to the tune of a .432 average. If he can keep healthy, we might see Elvis return to 2017 form or even take things a step further. He could realistically be a .295-.310 hitter and hit 20-25 HRs on a team that could desperately use that kind of performance.
Minor was really good… for about 4 innings
As alluded to, Minor looked to be what the Texas Rangers were hoping for through about 4 innings. The 1 run he gave up to that point was a home run to Baez on an 0-2 breaking ball below the strike zone. Off the bat it looked like a bloop pop up to left field. The wind (which was whipping like crazy at times) played a major factor in that ball getting into the seats to say the least.
In the fifth inning, Heyward lined a ground ball to the left of Andrus he could not handle. It was rightfully ruled a hit, but Andrus would likely tell you he should’ve had that one. It was hit hard enough to complete a double play. If that play is made it is 2-2 in the 5th inning with nobody on and 2 outs. It dramatically changed not only the game, but Minor’s day altogether.
The Rangers only struck out 6 times
While they did struggle at times to string hits and baserunners together, the Rangers were patient at the plate, working some deep counts versus Lester especially, and avoided striking out. There will be plenty of 10+ strike out games this season, but it’s certainly a positive to see perhaps a small step in the right direction in regard to plate discipline.
The bullpen looked like a mess
As mentioned, the bullpen struggled to throw strikes and gave up a lot of hits in just over 4 innings. It was concerning. Jessie Chavez was rocked after having a rough spring. While many people have been concerned about the rotation’s ability to hold up over the course of this season, there could be equal concern from the pen outside of Jose Leclerc.
The Rangers had 2 ABs with runners in scoring position
Compared to the Cubs’ 12 ABs with RISP, the Rangers had 2. That’s a recipe for a bad night (or day in this case). This is a team that is known the last few years for waiting around for a big home run. RISP opportunities is an area where the Rangers should be improving over time hopefully under a new coaching staff. It’s definitely something to watch as the season progresses on into the summer months.
Most understand the Texas Rangers are not going to compete this season realistically. There will be more days like this one where the they struggle on both sides of the ball. But there will also be more days like this one in the sense that this baseball temple we’ve called home for 25 years is as beautiful as it was in 1994. Enjoy it.