Rangers pick up shaky deGrom with 9-run inning
ARLINGTON -- It hasn’t been often that the Rangers have taken the field on Opening Day with a bona fide ace on the mound, and definitely not one of Jacob deGrom’s caliber.
When deGrom took the mound, facing off against Phillies ace Aaron Nola in front of a sold-out crowd of 38,387 at Globe Life Field on Thursday, nobody would have expected how Texas’ eventual 11-7 comeback victory would come to be.
The start of the deGrom era in Texas didn’t quite go as planned, at least not to begin with. The first inning was exactly what one would expect from him: 10 pitches, two strikeouts and two 100-plus mph fastballs.
Then it became a not-so-typical deGrom start. The ace gave up a two-run homer to Alec Bohm in the second inning and back-to-back triples to Brandon Marsh and Trea Turner in the third. deGrom allowed six extra-base hits in total, the most in any of his 210 career starts.
There wasn’t a lot of hard contact outside of the Bohm homer, and of the six hits he allowed, only three had an exit velocity of 90 mph or higher. It wasn’t a terrible start, but deGrom exited the game after just 3 2/3 innings with the Rangers looking at a 5-0 deficit nonetheless.
That was a stark difference from his three previous Opening Day starts with the Mets, during which he threw 17 scoreless innings with 25 strikeouts.
“He probably wasn't quite as sharp today, that's fair to say,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy. “They did have some good at-bats, but also, he had some bad luck too with some balls that got through. … You won’t see this very often. But it's why you play the game. He started battling quite a bit there and he kept fighting and the pitch count caught up with him. But again, it's not going to happen very often [with deGrom].”
The Rangers’ offense prevented deGrom from suffering his first Opening Day loss. Texas scored nine runs in the fourth inning after being no-hit through three. That tied the most runs the Rangers have scored in a single inning on Opening Day (1992, in Seattle). It also makes them the first team with a 9-plus-run inning on Opening Day since the Padres had an 11-run sixth in 1997, when Bochy was the manager in San Diego.
All nine members of the Rangers’ starting lineup reached base at least once, with Marcus Semien, Adolis García and Jonah Heim all notching multihit days and Robbie Grossman and Brad Miller logging their first home runs of the season as Texas roared back to a win.
“Run support for that guy is going to go a long way,” Lowe said of deGrom. “We saw today he's human, but that first inning was pretty electric; he had his moments. But as an offense, we were able to pick him up and put a tick in the ‘W’ column, and that's what's most important.”
deGrom emphasized that he didn’t feel his sharpest after the first inning, and he wasn’t hitting his spots quite like he normally does. He felt like he wasn’t making adjustments as the Phillies’ hitters continued making solid contact.
But part of being on a winning team is having an offense that can back the starting pitcher up. The Rangers did exactly that.
“That's important,” deGrom said. “Like I said, we're all trying to win and all trying to do our best. There's times where the offense will have a down day and the pitching picks them up -- like today, I had a down day and they picked me up. So that's important. You're all out there with the same goal in mind and that's to go out there every day trying to win. … Like I said, I'm not thrilled with how I threw the ball, but hey, we got the win.”
The most important part of the day, besides securing a victory, was getting deGrom stretched out -- he finished with 73 pitches -- and making sure he stayed healthy. The Rangers’ coaching and training staffs are more than confident in his ability to stay on the mound for the entire season.
“We don't want anybody to be or do anything more than what they normally do,” Bochy said. “It’s human nature, you want to get off to a good start. But again, these guys did a great job of picking Jacob up tonight, and you know what? He's going to be picking us up a lot, too.”