ARLINGTON -- Joey Gallo has seen some unique defensive alignments used against him in his short Major League career, but this was the first time he has seen four outfielders, including a third baseman, playing left field.
"There were a lot of guys in the outfield," Gallo said. "I had heard about it, but I didn't know how it worked. I really didn't think anything of it."
The defensive alignment was just one way the Astros shut down the Rangers on Opening Day at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The other was the pitching of Astros starter Justin Verlander and three relievers, who combined to hold the Rangers to one run on six hits in a 4-1 victory on Thursday afternoon.
Verlander shut out the Rangers for six innings before turning it over to his bullpen. The Rangers didn't score until there were two outs in the ninth, and the run came across on a wild pitch.
"Verlander is a tough pitcher," outfielder Delino DeShields said. "It's not like we were having bad at-bats. We were making good contact and just missing some pitches. I don't think this will kill our confidence. We know what we are able to do. They got good pitching. We'll take it as one game."
Gallo saw the four-man outfield immediately after DeShields lined out to start the first. Houston third baseman Alex Bregman moved out to left field while left fielder Josh Reddick shifted toward the gap, closer to center fielder Jake Marisnick. The unusual alignment also had shortstop Carlos Correa shifting over to the right side of second base. Jose Altuve, normally the second baseman, moved back into shallow right field, so the Astros actually had five on the outfield grass.
Gallo ended up going 0-for-3 with three fly balls and one strikeout. His last fly ball in the eighth took right fielder George Springer almost to the wall.
"He almost hit one right over the four-man outfield for a home run," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "Look, we're trying to create some coverage. It's a big outfield out there. Obviously, he hits the ball in the air a ton. He did it a lot today. He's a perfect example of a guy we want to cover the outfield with more than we want to cover the infield. [It was] a pretty good feeling."
Rangers manager Jeff Banister was more concerned about Gallo swinging at the first pitch. Gallo did so in the first and again in the fourth, when he led off the inning. Both times he flied out the other way.
"I don't think having four outfielders impacted how he swung the bat or his mindset," Banister said. "Couple of times there, we need a baserunner. Little uncharacteristic of him. Chalk it up to Opening Day, firing quickly on a couple of first pitches. He settled in and started taking the at-bats. I don't think it bothered his mindset."
The unusual alignment did leave the Astros vulnerable in one way. The entire left side of the infield was vacant had Gallo wanted to drop a bunt that way.
"I've bunted before, but I don't have much experience at it," Gallo said. "I wasn't coming into Opening Day planning to lay down a bunch of bunts."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Opportunity gets by Rangers: The Rangers' best chance to get to Verlander came in the second inning. Adrian Beltre led off with a single and Nomar Mazara was hit by a pitch, but with runners at first and second, Shin-Soo Choo -- ahead 2-and-1 in the count -- hit a grounder at Altuve to start a double play, and Robinson Chirinos struck out to end the inning. The Rangers went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position on the day.
"Good pitch, I just missed my pitch," Choo said.
Collision leads to run:Brian McCann led off the third with a roller that zig-zagged up the first-base line. The ball stayed fair as Gallo fielded it and tried to make the tag. But he collided with Hamels as he fielded the ball and lost track of McCann. Gallo missed the tag, and McCann was safe. Hamels then walked the next two batters, and Altuve followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.
"I have to say that was my fault," Hamels said. "I hesitated. When you see that, you just expect the ball to go foul. It took a bounce. Bad bounce, lucky break for them."
"I have never been in a beer league, so I don't know what they do there." -- Banister, asked if he has ever seen a four-man outfield outside a "beer" league
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Rougned Odor snapped a career 0-for-18 stretch against Verlander with a single to lead off the third inning. Verlander then proceeded to pick him off. Verlander had just one pickoff last season but has 31 for his career, the eighth most by an active pitcher and third most by a right-hander.
"The pickoff hurt a lot," Banister said. "Quick move by Verlander caught Odor with his feet crossed. Close play, couldn't tell if it was reviewable."
Right-hander Doug Fister pitches against the Astros on Friday at 7:05 p.m. CT at Globe Life Park. He is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in three career starts against Houston.
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