ARLINGTON (AP) – Ian Kinsler and the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers certainly don’t seem affected by their disappointments.
After being unable to reach a deal on a new long-term contract before his self-imposed deadline of opening day to end negotiations, Kinsler homered, had a double and scored twice for the Rangers in a season-opening 3-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
“You come in here and you play for your teammates, you don’t play for yourself. This is a very selfless team,” Kinsler said. “That’s something outside the clubhouse. … My main focus is to play hard for my teammates and do what I can to win a game.”
Just more than five months after they twice came within one strike of a World Series championship before losing in seven games to St. Louis, the Rangers opened the new season on a picture-perfect day – 75 degrees under blue skies – and played the game exactly how manager Ron Washington prefers.
It is a familiar and successful script.
Colby Lewis (1-0) struck out nine in his first opening day start. Three relievers then worked scoreless innings, with new closer Joe Nathan working a perfect ninth.
And the offense manufactured the needed runs against White Sox starter John Danks (0-1).
“A well-played game,” said Michael Young, the longest-tenured Ranger in his 12th season. “The first inning was perfect.”
Kinsler had a leadoff double in the first for Texas, before a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus and a sacrifice fly by Josh Hamilton. Kinsler’s homer in the third made it 2-0.
After Chicago tied the game by scoring twice in the sixth, including Adam Dunn’s record-tying eighth opening day homer, Hamilton led off the bottom of the frame with a single and scored on a single by Young.
The loss spoiled the managerial debut of Robin Ventura, who before the game had his first meeting with Nolan Ryan since charging the mound 19 seasons earlier against the Hall of Fame pitcher. Ryan is now president, CEO and part-owner of the Rangers.
“We just talked. I congratulated him on the last couple of years. He’s done a great job,” Ventura said.
Ventura, a surprise hire by the White Sox after Ozzie Guillen went to be Miami’s manager, was a 26-year-old third baseman for the White Sox when he charged the mound against Ryan on a hot August night at old Arlington Stadium in 1993. Ryan, 20 years older and in the last year of his playing career, got Ventura in a headlock and landed several blows.
The two hadn’t spoken until Ryan went to the White Sox clubhouse before the opener.
As for his first game as a manager, Ventura said, “I figured we’d lose a game at some point this year.”
Lewis walked only one over six innings, throwing 70 of 100 pitches for strikes. The only other Rangers pitcher with nine strikeouts in a season opener was Ryan in 1991.
“Colby threw extremely well, and it was great to get Joe out there on opening day, get the first one of a big crowd, with a one-run lead,” Young said. “We knew it we’d chip away and push one more run across, we’d have a chance to win.”
Alexi Ogando, an All-Star and 13-game winner as a starter last season, is back in the bullpen and struck out all three batters in faced in the seventh after Texas regained the lead and Lewis left. Nathan, the former Minnesota Twins closer, got a strikeout in the ninth.
Dunn pulled a ball into the second deck of seats in right field to start the sixth. Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. are the only other major leaguers who have eight homers in openers.
“It would’ve been a lot sweeter if we’d pulled it out today and we could talk about the win instead of that,” Dunn said. “When I stepped in, he was ready to go. Luckily I didn’t have time to think. If I had, I probably would have done something bad.”
Dunn batted third in the White Sox lineup. Last year, the highly paid slugger hit .159 with only 11 homers while striking out 177 times in 415 at-bats.
Alex Rios was hit by a pitch with two outs in the White Sox sixth, and the speedster was on the run when Alexi Ramirez singled to left. Rios scored to tie it at 2.
Danks’ first opening day start came in the stadium he visited often growing up in Austin about three hours away and where he always expected to pitch an opener after being drafted ninth overall by Texas in 2003. But he was traded to Chicago in December 2006, and got a new $65 million, five-year contract from the White Sox this winter.
“This was a fun game, it really was,” said Danks, who struck out six with no walks in six innings. “All in all, it was disappointing to get beat, but I feel like I’m where I need to be. That’s a good lineup over there. … If I can be this good or better, it should be a good year.”
NOTES: It was the sixth time Dunn had homered in the first game of the season. He twice had two homers on opening day, in 2005 and 2007 while with Cincinnati. … The 13 strikeouts by Texas pitchers were a record for opening day. The previous record was 11, in that 1991 opener when Ryan had nine.