Rangers give ‘Baseball Town’ fans opening win

ARLINGTON, Texas — “Welcome to Baseball Town.”

That was an image put up on the video board at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington before the Texas home opener against Los Angeles Friday.

It was in reference to former Texas slugger Josh Hamilton’s offseason comments that the Metroplex hasn’t embraced baseball.

While Hamilton’s comments are debatable, the Rangers showed Friday they can still play a championship-caliber level of baseball in Arlington, even if it’s just a different kind of baseball without his big bat in the lineup.

Texas used some aggressive moves on the base paths to give the 48,845 fans at Rangers Ballpark more reasons to cheer than Hamilton’s 0-for-4 performance as they won the opener 3-2 over Los Angeles.

Ian Kinsler’s RBI single to right in the bottom of the eighth scored Craig Gentry with the game-winning run. Gentry, who singled and stole second, challenged Hamilton in right and the speedy Gentry beat the throw home for the game winner on a headfirst slide.

The Rangers have just two homers in their first four games but are 3-1 and have found out how to win with pitching, aggressive running and defense.

“We have a very athletic team,” said Kinsler. “We have a very versatile team. There’s more guys in the lineup that bring different things this year and I think that’s going to benefit us. We’ll see.”

The Rangers did use a homer to tie the game, with that coming on Adrian Beltre’s blast to left in the seventh to knot things at 2. But the other two runs were manufactured by aggressiveness. A Hamilton bobble in left in the second on a ball hit by A.J. Pierzynski ended up an RBI triple as the Rangers ran on Hamilton.

Then in the eighth, Gentry stole second after getting a one-out single. He ran even though the Angels had left-hander Scott Downs on the mound.  That steal allowed him to score on Kinsler’s two-out single.

“Every pitch is a green light,” Gentry said. “I wasn’t stopping even if he (third base coach Gary Pettis) was trying to stop me. I had my head down and was trying to score. I knew everybody in the outfield had good arms. I knew he was kind of playing shallow out there.”

Texas manager Ron Washington, whose team had 12 hits Friday, said the Rangers will be able to find different ways to win this season.

“I wouldn’t say that’s the blueprint, but that’s the situation where that’s the type of ballgame we played,” Washington said. “We’re going to put a ton of runs on the board. We left a lot of men on the bag (11). We had opportunities to score more runs. But the pitching and the way it went on both sides, it only took three runs today. We’re capable of doing it many ways.”

If the Rangers continue to get the type of pitching they’ve received to start the season, they won’t need to find many ways to win.

Texas already had two shutouts in Houston, but that was against an inept Astros offense. The Angels aren’t Houston but left-hander Derek Holland treated them that way. Holland allowed just two runs in seven innings. He didn’t factor in the decision but he kept the Rangers in the game long enough for the offense to find a way to win.

He allowed six hits, struck out five and walked just one.

“I felt like I did a good job against their hitters for the most part and doing my part,” Holland said. “It led to them making great plays and fighting for me. I felt like we’ve all done good. The saying’s about hitting being contagious but I feel like our pitching’s contagious now.”

Holland did allow one homer, a solo shot to Chris Iannetta in the third that tied the game at 1. But the big hitters in the Los Angeles lineup – Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hamilton – went  1 for 11 with four strikeouts.

Two of those strikeouts were by Hamilton. Holland struck him out swinging to lead off the fourth inning. That was followed by either a standing ovation for Holland or a general cheer because it was Hamilton who was the victim.

Holland didn’t care about the reason. He was just happy to strike out Hamilton and keep the Angels in check.

“He kind of brought it himself making the comments but at the same time, Josh is a freak athlete,” Holland said. “I don’t care what anybody says. The guy can carry a team by himself. He can do whatever.”

The Rangers too, have shown early on they can do whatever they need to win. But of course they can. They play in a Baseball Town.