Angels 4, Rangers 1
Perhaps it's our very nature as baseball fans to amplify everything in the first game of the season tenfold, because our first impressions are the ones that stick with us the most. After all, it was only one game. But it was nonetheless a downer, as we saw some negative things from the Rangers last night that were all too reminiscent of 2006.
The most obvious of these was Texas's inability to cash in last night with runners in scoring position, as they left eight men on base, and erased even more with a few badly placed double plays. The Rangers showed excellent plate discipline early, driving John Lackey's pitch count over 65 through three innings, but just couldn't deliver when it counted. Evan Grant also touched on some of Texas's scoring struggles in his column this morning.
I'm not going to worry too much about how things went last night offensively, because they caught a lot of bad breaks. If Texas continues to reach base like they did during the first five innings, they're going to score runs. Frankly, I was more disturbed by the fact that the last 12 Rangers of the game were retired in order. Anaheim's bullpen might be good, but Texas seemed to stop having quality at-bats during the last four innings. Instead, they looked desperate at the plate, and that's never good. The camera panning over the depressed looking Rangers dugout in the 9th inning didn't really pump me with optimism, either.
As far as individual player performances went, Hank Blalock and Kenny Lofton were the most impressive. Blalock went 2 for 4 with a sweet opposite field double, and Lofton went 1 for 3 with his 600th and 601st stolen bases of his career. Both had defensive blunders, though: Blalock bobbled a grounder that allowed Shea Hillenbrand to reach base, and Lofton had a center field home run go off his glove, although he may not have been able to catch it anyway. Ian Kinsler's rocket solo home run was Texas's only source of offense last night.
The rest of the team didn't really show up. Frank Catalanotto, Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, Sammy Sosa, Brad Wilkerson and Gerald Laird went a combined 1 for 20 at the plate with four walks. Sosa, who had all the media hype in the world during spring training, went 0 for 3 with a walk. He also looked completely lost swinging at breaking pitches, which is something worth keeping a close eye on. He did do a nice job of working the count and laying off some tough pitches down and away, though. Nelson Cruz is expected to play in right field on Tuesday night in place of Sammy.
And it may be a serious knee jerk reaction, but Wilkerson looked just as bad Monday night as he did in 2006. He could easily play his way out of the equation if he doesn't start improving at the plate.
On the pitching side, Kevin Millwood was mediocre, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks in five innings of work while striking out five. However, the bullpen looked solid, with Ron Mahay and Mike Wood teaming up to allow only one run in three innings. Holding the Angels to four runs is pretty solid, so you can't fault the pitching staff for this loss.
In any event, it's just one game out of 162. Let's hope Texas brings more to the table tonight. Vicente Padilla and Kelvim Escobar face off at 9:05 PM CST.