Andrus, Mazara homer, but Minor finds trouble

In first Opening Day start, lefty retires 10 of first 12 before tough 5th

March 29th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Rangers lefty embraced the role of No. 1 starter when he was first given the Opening Day assignment. That first start just didn’t go quite the way he hoped.

Instead, Minor had to absorb the disappointment of getting knocked out in the fifth inning of a 12-4 loss to the Cubs on Thursday afternoon at Globe Life Park. Minor had won all six previous career starts against the Cubs, but he was facing them for the first time since 2014.

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s easier for me to move on because I know it’s a long season,” Minor said. “It’s the bulk of work. It doesn’t feel good on Opening Day to get beat that bad, but it doesn’t deter our confidence because everybody here knows it’s a long season.”

The Rangers' runs came on two-run home runs, by in the third and in the ninth. Mazara’s blast off left-hander Mike Montgomery was projected at 482 feet by Statcast, the second-longest of his career and the third-longest by the Rangers since 2015.

“We had a lot of good things happen today,” Minor said. “I wasn’t one of them.”

Andrus gave Minor a 2-0 lead off of Cubs starter Jon Lester. But Minor, after retiring 10 of the first 12 batters he faced, yielded a two-out home run to Javier Baez in the fourth, and the Cubs broke it open with a six-run fifth inning.

“I wasn’t locating anything,” Minor said. “I was kind of grinding all day, even though I was getting out of the innings. My changeup got me back in some counts and got me some ground balls.”

Minor was hurt by the bottom of the Cubs' order in the fifth. Last year, Minor held the bottom three in the opposing batting order to a combined .178 batting average over 28 starts. The turning point on Thursday was hitting David Bote with the first pitch of the fifth and then giving up three straight hits to the bottom three batters in the Cubs' lineup.

“I felt like he was throwing the ball well before that inning,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Leadoff hit by pitch with a curveball leading off the inning, I wouldn’t say it derailed it, but it just started an inning that otherwise wouldn’t have started. Just put him behind the eight ball right from the beginning.”

After Bote was hit by a pitch, Ben Zobrist lined a single up the middle to put runners at the corners. Jason Heyward then smashed a hard grounder up the middle that Andrus got to but couldn’t handle a tricky last hop. The ball smacked him in the left wrist, and instead of being an inning-changing double play, it went for an infield single that brought in the tying run.

Andrus, who recorded three hits, had ice on the wrist after the game and said the Rangers' infield is playing faster this season than in past years. Andrus said he noticed it in the two exhibition games against the Indians and is still getting used to it.

“He hit it pretty good,” Andrus said. “I tried my best. Got it right on my wrist. I had a chance to get it, that last hop got me.”

Rookie outfielder Mark Zagunis, down 0-2 in the count, then doubled to left-center to put the Cubs ahead. Minor struck out Albert Almora Jr., but Kris Bryant’s grounder to Andrus brought in another run. Minor’s day came to an end with a walk to Anthony Rizzo.

Right-hander Jesse Chavez took over, but Baez hit a first-pitch fastball over the right-field fence for a three-run home run.

“Our guys did a heck of a job,” Lester said. “Minor was on point early, and we kind of wore him out there and got some runs and got to him.”

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Off the bat, Baez appeared to make a bid for his third home run of the game with a deep fly to the right-field corner in the eighth inning. But Mazara made a nice sprinting grab while slamming into the wall in foul territory.