The Texas Rangers opened their Cactus League schedule on Friday by dropping a 6-5 game to the Royals on a walk-off home run by Tucker Bradley. He hit the home run on the first pitch from hard-throwing Marc Church.
Lasting 2 hours, 33 minutes total, it would be hard to say that what happened on the field was the big story from this game as it was the first to be played with a pitch clock for both of these teams. The Padres and Mariners also played a game on Friday and their total game time was 2 hours, 29 minutes. The use of the pitch clock could end up being the most influential change in a sport since football broadcasts on television started using the yellow line to indicate where the first down line is.
The yellow first down line truly changed how we as fans watched football. For the first time television was showing where a player had to get to in order to get a first down. It was introduced by ESPN in the fall of 1997 and was an immediate hit with fans and broadcasters alike. No longer did fans have to guess if that was a first down or not. If the ball carrier got across it then it was a first down. This past season was the 26th anniversary of that line being used. It has now spawned networks to use lines to indicate where a team needs to get to be able to kick a FG. Some networks will even change the color of the line to red on fourth downs. It has become just as much a part of the game and broadcast experience as the players on the field are.
The pitch clock has the chance to affect baseball similar way for fans and players alike. The clock will streamline the game. All of the unnecessary pauses and stops in the game will be removed and there will be a faster pace to the game. Players will be using Spring Training to get used to these rules, but with teams playing 30+ games in the next 33 days there will be plenty of time to make adjustments to accommodate these rule changes. The hope is that by Opening Day players will be use to the clock and there will be fewer penalties assessed in games that matter.
If you are not aware of the penalties that come with the pitch clock here we go. A pitcher has 15 seconds with no runners on and 20 seconds with runners on to start their motion. If they fail to do that a ball will be assessed. A batter has to be in the box by 8 second mark of the pitch clock and if they are not in the box and alert to the pitcher a strike will be assessed. Yesterday in the two games one batter and one hitter were assessed penalties. Manny Machado was given a strike in his first plate appearance on Friday for not getting into the box in time. In the Rangers game John King was assessed a ball in the 5th inning for not starting his motion in time. They may be the first ones to be given penalties, but they will be far from the last. More teams get underway with games on Saturday and there will likely be many more penalties assessed.
In the actual game Robbie Grossman came through with a two-run home run in his first at-bat in the second inning that tied the game at 2. He was batting right-handed and hit it down the left-field line and off the foul pole. Glenn Otto made the start and pitched two really good innings. He struck out five batters, walked one, and gave up a two-run home run to Vinnie Pasquantino. The stars got their two at-bats and then many were lifted. They were replaced by the young guys. Evan Carter got playing time in center, Dustin Harris in left-field, Blaine Crim at 1st, Luisangel Acuna at 2b, Jonathan Ornelas at SS, Justin Foscus at 3b, and Sam Huff at catcher. They held their own. Foscue did have an error at 3b, but also hit a solo home run in the 7th inning. Acuna had a single. Evan Carter threw out a runner at 3b and drew a walk. It will be interesting to watch an entire 9 inning game with the Rangers. They legit have a good second unit of guys that Bochy can call upon to finish out games. Chase Lee and Owen White got in as well. Lee pitched a scoreless 7th inning. White was not so lucky. He pitched 2/3 of an inning and gave up two runs, but did strike out a batter before being lifted for Daniel Robert who finished out the 4th inning.
Overall it was a good day even though they lost. The pitch clock did speed up the game. If they actually are able to cut 20-30 minutes from the average game time it will be a very positive change for the game of baseball. Bochy played nearly everyone on the roster and so those players were able to get their feet wet. There were no injuries to speak of. Cactus League continues this weekend with a rematch with the Royals and then they will travel to play the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday.