Opening Day FAQ: Rox vs. Rangers

July 23rd, 2020

ARLINGTON -- The Rockies are in Texas to help the Rangers open Globe Life Field. The two teams played a couple of exhibition games, and now they will play the first regular-season game ever at the Rangers’ new $1.2 billion stadium.

The weather forecast for Friday calls for a high of 92 degrees, but that no longer matters. This game will be played in air-conditioned comfort under the retractable roof.

These are two teams known for high-powered offenses, and that should again be on display in this Opening Day matchup.

The Rockies’ offense is a Fantasy League player’s dream, with Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and David Dahl coming off All-Star seasons, Daniel Murphy rebounding, Ryan McMahon emerging and Matt Kemp joining a team he haunted for years. But can they pitch?

Last season, underwhelming pitching was a culprit in a 20-games-below-.500 season. But Opening Day starter Germán Márquez, plus the starters in Games 2 and 3 -- Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland -- all were keys at various times during the 2017 and ’18 playoff runs. And a Wade Davis rebound from a down ’18 could re-set the bullpen.

The Rangers may not have one of those overpowering offenses that were a huge part of seven division titles at the Ballpark in Arlington. But they are counting on much-improved starting pitching, and the Rockies will see their top three arms in the series.

Lance Lynn will lead it off on Friday, followed by Mike Minor on Saturday and Corey Kluber on Sunday. Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Danny Santana lead the offensive firepower.

When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is 7:05 p.m. CT/6:05 p.m. MT and can be seen on MLB.TV, Fox Sports Southwest and AT&T Sports Net. Radio broadcasts will be on 105.3 The Fan in North Texas and KOA 850 AM in Colorado.

The starting lineups
Rockies: This season there will be plenty of matchup options for manager Bud Black, thanks to a 30-man roster, the advent of the designated hitter in all games, the signing of Kemp and the return to form for former D-backs, Royals and Red Sox utility man Chris Owings.

But for the opener, just six Rockies have faced Lynn, with no one other than Murphy (8-for-20, 1 HR, 2 2B) claiming much success (although Arenado has homered against him). The biggest lineup news is the plan to lead off with Dahl, with Blackmon (who appears to be recovered from a COVID-19 bout) batting third and likely positioned in right field. Raimel Tapia and Sam Hilliard could be interchangeable left-handed options in left field or as the designated hitter.

Related

Rangers: Willie Calhoun is on the active roster, but he is not expected to play on Opening Day because of a strained right hip flexor. Manager Chris Woodward said Nick Solak will play there instead. Robinson Chirinos is expected to start at catcher, having recovered from a sprained right ankle.

Todd Frazier is expected to start at first base. The Rangers signed Frazier to be their third baseman but that changed in Summer Camp. Ronald Guzmán and Greg Bird were the top two candidates at first base, but both struggled offensively. That opened up a chance for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and he seized the job by going 13-for-44 (.295) with two home runs in intrasquad games.

Who are the starting pitchers?
Rockies: Márquez, making his first Opening Day start, has never faced the Rangers in the regular season, but he has several Spring Training starts to study. Last season, Márquez had some impressive stats, such as 175 strikeouts in 174 innings. While there may be a temptation to yawn at his 4.76 ERA, remember that he was 7-3 with a 3.67 ERA when not at Coors Field.

Rangers: Lynn has made seven career starts against the Rockies, but he will be facing them for the first time since 2017. He is 2-2 with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.157 WHIP against them. Lynn allowed six runs in four innings in his last intrasquad start. His 16 wins in 2019 were tied for the fifth most in the American League while he was seventh with a 3.67 ERA and fourth with 246 strikeouts.

How will the bullpen line up after the starters?
Rockies: Righties Carlos Estévez and Jairo Díaz and lefty James Pazos have pitched well enough to earn consideration for late roles this year. The trio took advantage to the point that the club cut ties with high-priced lefty Jake McGee and righty Bryan Shaw.

But for it all to work, some key arms have to answer questions. Will Davis be able to differentiate his fastball from his cutter, and use both effectively as he has in the past? Has Díaz recovered from his late Summer Camp start?

Rangers: José Leclerc will be the Rangers’ closer with veteran right-handers Jesse Chavez and Nick Goody lined up as his setup relievers. Right-handers Jonathan Hernández and Luke Farrell don’t have much Major League experience, but they were two of the Rangers’ most effective pitchers in Spring Training and Summer Camp.

Any injuries of note?
Rockies: Right-hander Scott Oberg has a sore back and will open the season on the 10-day injured list. Blackmon and Díaz appear to be in line to begin the year with no restrictions.

Rangers: Calhoun is not expected in the Opening Day lineup, but he could see pinch-hitting duties or be used at designated hitter at some point during the series. The bullpen is without left-hander Joely Rodríguez (strained lat muscle) or right-hander Rafael Montero (sore forearm), both of whom are on the injured list. Brett Martin is on the COVID-19 injured list after testing positive at the beginning of camp. He has been cleared to work out with the Rangers but is not ready to pitch in a game.

Who is hot and who is not?
Rockies: Murphy stung the ball throughout Summer Camp. In live batting-practice sessions, he showed he can drive an inside pitch the way he did during the best days of his career. There was some concern about Blackmon and Dahl (core soreness). But Blackmon homered in two of the three intrasquad games in which he played, and Dahl's doubles power showed up in his final intrasquad action.

Rangers: Rougned Odor was 13-for-36 with five home runs in the intrasquad games. Scott Heineman, who made the team as the fourth outfielder, was 19-for-39 with six doubles, two triples and two home runs. Solak hit .364 with 16 hits in 44 at-bats. Joey Gallo had a late start to camp and was 2-for-29 in intrasquad play.

Anything else fans might want to know?
• Frazier has the most experience against Márquez, going 1-for-8 off him in his career. Chirinos is 0-for-5.

• Story, an Irving, Texas, native who grew up rooting for the Rangers, went 4-for-14 at the old park during a three-game series Father's Day Weekend in 2018. In the finale, he went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, then presented his spikes to his father, retired Irving firefighter Ken Story.

• Hilliard grew up in nearby Mansfield, Texas, before playing at Crowder (Mo.) College and Wichita State. During offseasons he has worked at a baseball facility owned by a Fort Worth, Texas, native and a onetime Rockies star in his own right, Brad Hawpe.

• Elvis Andrus is starting at shortstop for the 12th straight Opening Day. That will be the most Opening Day starts in club history. Ivan Rodriguez and Michael Young both started 11 Opening Days for the Rangers.