ARLINGTON, Texas | The Rangers now get to play inside deep in the heart — and heat — of Texas. They’re 1-0 under their new roof.
Lance Lynn struck out nine over six solid innings and the Texas Rangers inaugurated their retractable-roof stadium with a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
“Feels pretty good right now, haven’t lost a game in our new ballpark,” second-year manager Chris Woodward said.
After 48 seasons of playing home games outside, it was a pleasant 72 degrees at first pitch in the air-conditioned $1.2 billion Globe Life Field — and 94 outside.
The Rangers didn’t get their first hit off Rockies starter German Marquez until after Lynn (1-0) had thrown the last of his 108 pitches in his first opening day start.
“The first three innings of the game was probably the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt on a mound,” Lynn said, later adding that he was just jacked up wanting to win the opener of a shortened season starting four months later. “I told everybody when we came into the locker room, you can’t win them all until you win the first one.”
Danny Santana had a one-out double in the sixth and scored on a two-out double by Rougned Odor that chased Marquez (0-1). The Rockies right-hander, who retired the first 12 batters, struck out six and walked three.
Even with no fans allowed in the sparkling new 40,000-seat park, longtime PA guy Chuck Morgan gave his emphatic “It’s Baseball Time in Texas!” that echoed through the stadium before introducing the Rangers starting lineup. Music was played throughout, along with the piped-in crowd noise and cheers — those cardboard cutouts of fans behind home plate didn’t make any noise.
“I thought as a hitter you could collect your thoughts a little bit better, stepping out and being able to breathe a little more, not get as rushed,” Rockies leadoff hitter David Dahl said.
“It was definitely different. But it didn’t really affect the quality of play or the intensity in the dugout or how guys went about it,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “I thought both teams played the same way you would if there were 45,000 people there. … There wasn’t a dropoff of player intensity at all.”
Colorado’s Matt Kemp was the only player who knelt during the national anthem that was performed live by Charley Pride. The County Music Hall of Fame singer, a two-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues in the 1950s who is part of the Rangers’ ownership group, sang from a platform beyond the center field wall.
Many, but not all players, from both teams knelt before the anthem when holding a long black ribbon in a show of unity that was part of season-opening games across baseball.
Lynn, 16-11 with 246 strikeouts last year in his first season in Texas, walked four. He is only the fourth Rangers pitcher with nine strikeouts on opening day, and only third with six scoreless innings in an opener.
“His command was a little erratic early. … You could see just the grit and determination this kid has, he ended up going six,” Woodward said. “Not surprising, Lance showed us that last year all year.”
Jesse Chavez and Jonathan Hernandez both pitched a scoreless inning. Jose Leclerc struck out two in the ninth, for the save in the Rangers’ first 1-0 win in a home opener since 1980.
People could be seen outside through the ground-to-ceiling windows in left field — the same windows that offer a view of the old ballpark across the street. Many fans watched the TV broadcast of the game on huge video boards inside the adjacent entertainment complex, but those outside had no clear view to the new field that is below street level.
A LONG WAY
Rockies All-Star shortstop Trevor Story, who is from nearby Irving, Texas, hit a deep drive to the left-center gap with one on in the eighth inning. Story, who had 35 homers last season, had a look of disbelief knowing that a similarly hit ball in the old ballpark would have almost certainly been a two-run homer. “A big spot out there, obviously saved us two runs,” Woodward said.
Rockies rookie LF Sam Hilliard’s father, diagnosed two years ago with ALS, was able to attend his son’s first MLB opening day. Hilliard, who made his MLB debut at the end of last season, grew up in the area going to Rangers games with his dad. Hilliard struck out in all four of his at-bats. The Rangers also had permission for some team employees to watch the first game in the new ballpark — they were in an area above right field.
Rockies: RHP Scott Oberg, a key reliever, started the season on the 10-day injured list because of a lower back strain.
Rangers: LF Willie Calhoun, recovered from a broken jaw after getting hit in the face during a spring training game in March, wasn’t in the lineup because of a hip strain. He could be the DH on Saturday.
Rangers lefty Mike Minor, a first-time All-Star last season when he was the opening day starter, starts Saturday against Rockies right-hander Jon Gray (11-8 last season).