Fast start fizzles in rocky opener for pitchers

April 2nd, 2021

Rangers manager Chris Woodward thought it was a perfect start to Opening Day against the Royals. Texas went 6-for-6 at the plate to start the game, including a walk by in the three-hole spot, to take an early five-run lead.

It was a perfect start for the Rangers, until the next half-inning when the Royals scored five of their own in a shaky first Opening Day start from pitcher , who retired just one batter Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. It allowed the Royals, who surrendered five runs in the top half of the first, to tie the game at 5 before storming back to a 14-10 victory.

“I think it was more of just a mechanical issue and just not having my best stuff today,” Gibson said. “It was more just a result of really not having anything other than my sinker. It was probably just not doing a good-enough job. I'll go back to the drawing board and look at the video and try to make those adjustments.”

Gibson’s cutter and slider both appeared to miss spots early in counts, causing him to walk three straight batters in the middle of the lineup. He felt like he didn’t have good command of any of his pitches, throwing 32 pitches with 17 strikes.

It wasn’t a stellar pitching performance on either side. Per Baseball-Reference, this was the first time in MLB history where both Opening Day starters were unable to make it through two full innings. Gibson only went one-third of an inning, allowing five runs on four hits and three walks. Kansas City starter Brad Keller went 1 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on nine hits.

Woodward described it as a “free for all” at the plate as both teams took and retook leads. The Rangers had leads of 5-0 and 8-5 that the Royals rallied against. Rangers pitching couldn’t hold off Kansas City long enough to subdue the comeback.

Texas’ offense was plentiful, scoring 10 runs on 15 hits. was the Rangers’ best hitter, going 3-for-5 with a walk, while Gallo reached in five of his six plate appearances. First baseman , acquired from Tampa Bay in the offseason, delivered four RBIs on two hits.

Dahl also joined the Yankees’ Bob Watson as the only players with three-hit games when their birthday fell on Opening Day. Dahl said the biggest thing for him was controlling the strike zone and not chasing out of the zone.

The Rangers’ five runs were the most by the club in the first inning of a season opener. But the offensive output wasn’t enough to cover the work on the mound. Rangers pitchers combined to allow 14 runs on 15 hits, eight walks and three home runs.

“It was honestly just the consistency of the at-bats,” Woodward said. “Early on, we did exactly what we talked about, stay to the middle of the field, hit a lot of line drives. We just have to do that every game and we can apply the same pressure every game.”

Woodward said one thing he was really shocked about was the amount of walks issued. He and pitching coach Doug Mathis have often emphasized the importance of attacking the strike zone.

“I'm not going to say the ship is sinking after one game from the pitching side,” Woodward said. “I like what we've done up to this point, and today didn't work out great for us, clearly. I don't know what to chalk it up to, but typically those guys throw the ball in a strike zone. We’ve got to do better next time.”