ARLINGTON -- The Rangers’ home opener at Globe Life Field on Monday began rather innocuously, with celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the club's relocation to Texas in 1972.
As pregame ceremonies honored the past 50 years of Texas Rangers baseball, an entirely new era was on display in front of 35,052 fans. Nathaniel Lowe, Nick Solak and Charlie Culberson are the only Rangers who appeared on the home opening lineup in both the 2021 and ‘22 seasons.
Across the field, the new additions of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Mitch Garver and Kole Calhoun highlighted the Rangers’ new-look lineup, even as Texas fell, 6-4, in 10 innings to the Rockies to open the 2022 home slate.
It was one of those new faces in Garver that was at the center of a disputed game-changing play in the bottom of the 10th inning. After Willie Calhoun sent the game to extra innings with a two-out, pinch-hit solo homer in the ninth, the Rockies rebounded once again in the following frame to take the lead.
The Rangers were cooking in the bottom of the 10th, with Garver drawing a walk to put runners on first and second with one out. Adolis García’s subsequent grounder to third base seemed to set up a game-ending double play. But Colorado second baseman Brendan Rodgers threw the ball away looking to turn two with Garver sliding into second base, and García appeared to evade the double play and reach first safely.
Rockies manager Bud Black then called for a review of the slide rule regarding Garver’s slide into second, which the replay center in New York ultimately overturned to end the game on a double play.
“That didn’t determine us losing the game,” said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. “We lost that game. We didn't play well. We didn't make plays at the end. We didn't make pitches at the end. That's the most important thing I can say. It's more of a technicality. Listen, I read the rule. It is what it is. There's not much we can do. We have to walk away, but it's really frustrating to lose a game like that… There's nothing we can do about that. We have to play better baseball.”
The official umpire call said Garver was in violation of Rule 6.01(j), which states “if a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference.”
Garver said he was surprised with the review and even more surprised when the call was overturned to end the game, noting he made a “clean, hard baseball slide.”
“The rule is you have to make contact with the dirt before the base, you have to slide into the bag first, and you have to be able to maintain grasp of the bag or touch the base,” Garver explained. “All of those things I did. I went into the bag. I think my left foot touches back first. The momentum carried me through to the top of the bag. That's a baseball play, man. I'm trying to extend the inning.”
With all the new, and some controversial, also came a little bit of the old shining through alongside Calhoun’s game-tying homer. It was only right that Dallas-Fort Worth native Taylor Hearn got the start on the mound, tossing four innings and allowing just one run on eight hits and one walk for his hometown team.
With all the pomp and circumstance of the day, it would be understandable for the Royse City native to be high on the emotions in the moment. But Hearn, who grew up just about 50 miles northeast of Globe Life Field, worked around a 29-pitch first inning and a bases-loaded jam to produce a solid start to the Rangers’ day.
Lowe and García combined for three RBIs, showcasing the Rangers’ returning offensive firepower to go with the new-look lineup. García, who had just 32 walks over 149 games in 2021, drew two in his first two at-bats to bring his season total to four in four games. He finished the game 2-for-3 with two walks.
All spring, García had made a conscious effort to control the strike zone and draw more walks. If he does so consistently throughout the season, it could be a game-changer for Texas.
“I think just when he learns how to have that kind of patience and discipline, and then he adds the slugging value to it, he's gonna get better pitches to hit,” Woodward said. “Teams are gonna start going, ‘OK, this guy's not chasing anymore.’ They're gonna have to come to the middle of the plate. Obviously you have some really good hitters surrounding him. … He's going to reap the benefits of it at some point.”
Woodward still emphasized that both the bullpen and the defense needed to be better down the stretch of the game. Both Seager and Culberson made uncharacteristic defensive errors that led to runs early in the game, and the bullpen gave up five runs, all from the seventh inning on.
“We have some really good arms, we’ve just gotta get more consistent,” Woodward said. “We’ve got to be able to put hitters away. Our starters are gonna do the same thing, just as a pitching staff. We've given up a lot of two-out hits, a lot of hard contact. Those are killing us, and it killed us in Toronto. Obviously, at the end of the day, we just couldn't finish off and make a pitch that we needed to.”