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G1: Rangers end up losing big to Astros, 8-2

I was ready to go.  I caught up most of the parts of my Rangers site, I had the game loaded up on “WatchESPN”, so I got to see the game (and listened to some bad announcing).   Matt Harrison was looking good early, on, and then “that” happened.   And by that, I meant that somewhere between the top of the fourth and the bottom of the fourth, the Rangers and Astros seemed to switch uniforms.  They certainly were not playing like they were supposed to.   I think they switched uniforms!

Thing is, I didn’t think Harrison was awful.  Early on he was lights out.  Struck out five Astros in the first three innings.  Things were going quite nicely.   Even into the bottom of the fourth, Harrison got the first batter out, then allowed a single, and then another strikeout, his sixth.  Then Pena singled, and Justin Maxwell tripled off the wall, a call that was confirmed after a video review, that really didn’t seem to be necessary.   I suspect the video review was to make up for two calls earlier in the game that were obviously blown.  One went the Rangers way, one went the Astros way.  Still, the video review didn’t seem to be necessary.   That put the Astros up 2-0.   Not a big deal at this point.  I would have liked to have scored first, but it was just two.

After that, the Astros kept coming.  Harrison did strike out the first in the fifth (his 7th), and then allowed a walk, a single, another single before getting another out (another strikeout actually, 8th).   Now in this inning came something that I didn’t care for.  Nelson Cruz bobbled a ball, allowing a guy to score, and another to advance.  Now, in all fairness given everything else that happened, that guy would have scored anyway.  But still.  It evoked memories of Vlad Guerrero out there in right during the 2010 World Series.  Not as egregious as Cruz’s own muffed play in the 2011 World Series, but still.  I didn’t like that.

Another thing that wasn’t fun was that Ian Kinsler dropped not one, not two, but THREE balls that came his way.  Again, none of them directly lead to any runs, but still.  THREE dropped balls?  If that keeps up, Capt Uppercut will need some sort of new nickname.

Meanwhile the Rangers bats weren’t doing much of anything.  At this point, it’s the top of the 6th, and the Rangers are down 4-0, and have only managed two walks, and two singles.  That’s annoying, because early on we were working Bud Norris – jacking up his pitch count, but we got away from that.   In the sixth, we did manage to break through with our only two runs of the game.   They came on singles by David Murphy & Nelson Cruz.  That’s all we could muster, and it really felt like we were hitting in the wrong uniforms.

We get into the sixth, and Harrison struck out Carlos Pena (not hard) for his 9th overall strikeout.  A walk, another out and a second walk brought his night to an end.  He ended up losing the game, although I didn’t feel he was that awful.  Kudos to the Astros for making some sort of adjustment, because Harrison was cruising going into the fourth, and lost it.  So either he tanked, or they figured it out.  Gut feeling is the latter, but I can’t prove that.   Interesting factoid about this game about Harrison.  He is the fourth Opening Day starter in last 25 years to have at least nine strikeouts and lose.  The other three are Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, & Nolan Ryan.

Derek Lowe came in to follow Harrison, and promptly gave up a three run home run to Rick Ankiel.  The good feeling we got from the two runs in the top of the inning was erased with that.   Ugh.  For as bad as he looked, his ERA is only 27.00 after 0.1 IP.  That home run didn’t help Harrison, whose ERA sits at 7.94 after this game.  Thanks Lowe, that screwed me up on three fantasy teams!

Jason Frasor did good in his inning, and is the only unscathed pitcher – no hits and no runs (or walks) in his inning.

The rest of the game was mostly uneventful, except for the fact that Joe Ortiz came in during the bottom of the 8th, and made his major league debut.  He struck out his first batter, which has to feel good for any pitcher.  Granted, it’s Carlos Pena again (shocker, I know), but still.  That had to feel good.  After that, Justin Maxwell tripled again to right field.   Ortiz got a grounder, and got a second, but deflected it, and Kinsler couldn’t make the play, allowing the final Astros run of the night to score.   Felt bad for Ortiz, as I want him to do well, both for himself, and for the team.  Overall, I’m sure he will, but he’s more likely to remember the run he gave up than the strikeout he got on his first batter.

Offensively, we had just six hits total.  Three walks.  The hits were all singles.  Two by Berkman, two by Cruz, and one each by Murphy & Pierzynski.   I’m still a bit surprised that we were that ineffective against the Astros.

So yeah, nobody likes losing their opening game.  Granted, it’s on the road, and you can bury it if you come back and take the other two in the series, but man, NOBODY likes losing their first.   Have to say congrats to one time Ranger Bo Porter for his first win as a major league manager.  Many a moon ago when Porter was a Ranger, he surprised me when I was waiting in line for tickets at the Ballpark by coming out and shaking my hand and thanking me for buying tickets.  I wasn’t the only person who he talked to, but I was the first he said hi to – so that’s a cool little personal tidbit that ties into this game.  :)

Also, anyone watch the player intros on ESPN?  When the Astros came out of their dugout, they blasted a ton of smoke/steam/whatever surrounding the player.  If I was one of their season ticket holders there, I’d be pissed, because they did it for every starting lineup player, and by the time they were all announced, there was smoke all over the place.  Bet you nobody there could see anything.

Finally, after the game was over, word came out that it looks like the Rangers are going to sign Elvis Andrus to a long term extension.  That will be interesting as it will mean it’s a block for Jurickson Profar unless someone is traded (Kinsler?)

Still, despite how poorly the game went – baseball is back.  Gotta love that.