Harden shaky in debut, Rangers lose 7-4

By STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Vernon Wells is having quite a season-opening homecoming.


Wells homered two more times, Jason Frasor pitched an uneventful ninth
after blowing a save on opening day and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the
Texas Rangers 7-4 on Wednesday night.

Wells’ tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth put Toronto ahead to stay, and he led off the ninth with another drive.


The longest-tenured Blue Jays player in his 12th season, Wells grew up
in Arlington and still lives in the area. This is the first time he has
gotten to open a season at home, and he has three homers in the two
games.

“It’s just trying not to miss your
pitches when you get them, that’s the biggest thing. So far so good,”
he said. “There are only 160 more games to go. I don’t think I’ll keep
this pace up.”

Still, it’s a tremendous
start for Wells, who broke his wrist in 2008 and slipped to .260 last
season with 15 homers, his lowest total since becoming a full-time big
leaguer in 2002.

Brian Tallet (1-0) allowed
four runs, two earned, and four hits in 6 2-3 innings for the Blue
Jays. He struck out six and walked three.


Tallet, one of three left-handers in Toronto’s rotation, bounced back
nicely after allowing homers to Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz on
consecutive pitches in the fourth, tying it at 3.

“It’s a moment of reckoning,” Tallet said. “You fold and let things slip away or you buckle down.”


Rich Harden had an erratic debut for the Rangers, with eight strikeouts
and plenty of misses too without getting a decision. The right-hander
was done after giving up consecutive bases-loaded walks in the fourth.


“I felt like I had good stuff, but they made me throw a lot of pitches
and I lost my command that last inning and that’s what hurt me,” Harden
said. “You end up getting tired, especially with guys on base.”


Wells, who scored four times, was hit by a pitch leading off the top of
the fourth, then Harden walked a batter and struck out another before
third baseman Michael Young’s error loaded the bases. After a shallow
fly ball, Harden walked the No. 9 batter and another to give Toronto a
3-1 lead.

The Blue Jays led 6-3 midway
through the seventh despite only two hits at that time — the homer by
Wells off Dustin Nippert (0-1) and a solo shot by Alex Gonzalez that
was the only hit allowed by Harden.

Near
the end of spring training, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy pulled Wells
aside to try an adjustment that got his hands and his weight back more
in his stance.

“If I get ready on time,
everything else kind of works after that,” Wells said. “I can tell if
I’m late, I can tell if I’m on time, and just try to be on time as much
as possible.”

So far, Wells is right on schedule.


After Wells homered in the ninth, his dad, who regularly attends games
at Rangers Ballpark, could be seen with a huge smile on his face.


“He did a lot of cussing at the TV last year, he gets a lot more upset
than I do when I struggle,” Wells said. “I’m glad he has a smile on his
face right now.”

Kevin Gregg followed
Tallet with 1 1-3 perfect innings before Frasor, who gave up two runs
in the ninth inning of Toronto’s 5-4 loss on Monday, worked around a
leadoff double in the ninth to pick up the save.

Harden, who can make as much as $9 million with the free-agent deal he signed over the winter, walked five.


After Harden walked the game’s first batter, he struck out five of the
next six until Gonzalez led off the third with a 409-foot homer to
left-center.

Nippert walked four in 2 2-3
innings, including Wells in the seventh when Toronto produced a run
with two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly by Edwin Encarnacion.


“We walked 10 and hit two, you’re not going to win many games doing
that,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Vernon Wells shows up
again. His bat speed looked like it was back so he must be back from
the wrist injury.”

NOTES:
It was Wells’ 19th career multihomer game, his first in Arlington. …
Washington says “it’d be a miracle” for 2B Ian Kinsler to play in the
season-opening, six-game homestand. Kinsler is on the disabled list for
an ankle injury. He has hit, but isn’t taking grounders yet. …
Toronto had two errors on one play in the seventh, right fielder Jose
Bautista’s bobble and shortstop Gonzalez’s bad throw after the relay to
put runners on second and third. That led to an unearned run when Julio
Borbon grounded out.

Received 04/08/10 12:28 am ET