And so, after a winter of waiting for pitchers and catchers to report, hoping for the sun and the spring to groan and yawn and wake up from the gray, we all gathered at the ballpark and sat with rapt attention as baseball made its grand return.
Baseball, mischievous as ever, strode through the door with all the pageantry and fanfare once associated with statesmen, before hand-buzzering and kick-me-stickering everyone in the house, cackling wildly “Did you miss me, you gullible dopes?”
It all started according to plan: the Rangers jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Rougned Odor worked a 3-2 count before depositing a Corey Kluber pitch into the right field seats. But the lead was short-lived: in the bottom of the inning, with runners on second and third, Francisco Lindor lined a ball to Jurickson Profar in somewhat shallow left field. It seemed plausible that there might be a play at the plate, but Joey Gallo cut off the throw and threw the ball to second base. Why? Because Carlos Santana (who had been at second base) was standing on third base before Abraham Almonte had even left, not realizing, I suppose, that there weren’t two outs already. Well now there are three, Carlos. The double-up was easy, but Almonte had already scored before the ball got to second, so the game was tied.
...for a minute, anyway. Carlos Gomez one-upped Odor’s shot, blasting a baseball into the upper deck in left field to make it 2-1. Gomez was the first to hit a ball to the club level there since Nelson Cruz did so as a visitor in 2015. Before that, it was… Nelson Cruz again, this time in 2012 as a Ranger.
But Odor wasn’t finished just yet. After a Nomar Mazara single and a Mike Napoli walk, Odor hit yet another home run. It was 5-1, and Bob Simpson and Ray Davis started searching for horse sales in the area. “I felt great at the plate,” the second baseman would say after the game. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard all the time, be the same hitter all the time, hit the ball hard.”
Odor would go on to make a nice sliding defensive play in the following inning, and welllllll…. If you want to keep those good Opening Day vibes, perhaps it would be prudent to turn off your device now, because that was about the end of all the good things tonight.
Kluber, who looked absolutely lost early in the game, somehow made it through the sixth inning, and didn’t allow another hit after the Odor home run. Yu Darvish, meanwhile, went on to walk more than he struck out (5 to 4).
Even so, when he left the game in the 7th with one out and a runner on base, he did so with a 5-4 lead (the fourth run came on a strikeout/wild pitch combo). Matt Bush closed out the seventh, and if we thought we knew anything about this team coming into Spring Training, it was that the bullpen was going to be great.
But then Keone Kela got sent to AAA for punishment, and Matt Bush hung a curveball to Edwin Encarnacion, and Sam Dyson only got two outs in six batters and all of a sudden it was 8-5 Cleveland and Alex Claudio was wiggling into his crouch and slinging his weird balloon changeup to get out of the inning. Elvis Andrus tripled in the bottom of the ninth, but Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar each swung at ball four, and Carlos Gomez swung at ball one, and that was the game.
The Rangers are 0-1, which is, you know, worse than 1-0, but not as bad as 0-2, and not as good as 1-1, both of which are a possibility tomorrow, because while baseball may be an infuriating imp, it is at least persistent.