Defending Champions Take Cactus League Opener

Rangers win Cactus league opener

It is officially baseball time in Texas! The defending World Series Champion Texas Rangers took to the field in the Cactus League opener against the Kansas City Royals, with whom they share a Spring Training home. Before the game, the World Series banner was raised over Surprise Stadium by Cal Kost, an usher for the Rangers for 30 years.

The lineup for the season opener was interesting indeed. We saw many new faces among those tapped to start the game. As he always does, Marcus Semien (2B) led the lineup, followed by Evan Carter (RF), Wyatt Langford (LF), Nathaniel Lowe (1B), Leody Taveras (CF), Sam Huff (C), Matt Duffy (3B), Ezequiel Duran (DH), Josh Smith (SS), and the starting pitcher Dane Dunning. Several notable names were missing from the starting roster, some due to injury, but some due to skipper Bruce Bochy wanting to slow play his big players such as Jonah Heim and Adolis Garcia. It also allows him to get a good look at the non-roster invitees.

Top 1st

Dane Dunning had a quick one-two-three first inning, throwing only three pitches in total: a fly out to Evan Carter by Garrett Hampson, a ground out to Nate Lowe by Vinnie Pasquantino, and a line out to third baseman Matt Duffy by Nelson Velazquez.

Bottom 1st

Marcus Semien led off the bottom of the 1st with his first walk of the season, taking four straight balls off pitcher Daniel Lynch IV. Evan Carter made first contact for the Rangers, grounding into a force out in the middle infield to retire Semien, while Carter reached 1st base. Wyatt Langford was retired on a single pitch fly out to right field for the second out of the inning. Nate Lowe grounds into another force out to retire Carter at 2nd to end the inning.

Top 2nd

The Rangers replaced Dane Dunning with Cody Bradford, as anticipated. Bradford allows the Royals to draw first blood with a two out home run by Drew Waters. 1-0 Kansas City. He gets out of the inning with no further damage done with a single and a flyout for the final out.

Bottom 2nd

Leody Taveras reached first on a pitch clock violation and three consecutive balls by pitcher Jake Brentz. Brentz threw another four balls to Sam Huff, putting a man on first and second. Newcomer Matt Duffy drove in the first Texas run of the season on a line drive single to center field. Ezequiel Duran took four consecutive balls for the third walk of the inning. A wild pitch from Brentz sent Sam Huff home, making the score 2-1 Texas before sending Josh Smith to 1st with another walk to load the bases. Marcus Semien’s second plate appearance of the season ended in the first strikeout of the game. Carter drove in the third Texas run with a sacrifice fly to bring Matt Duffy across the plate, making the score 3-1 Texas. Wyatt Langford grounded out to end the inning.

Top 3rd

Justin Foscue entered the game defending second base. Cody Bradford recorded his first strikeout during an easy one-two-three inning for five pitches.

Bottom 3rd

The Rangers also had a quiet one-two-three inning with a Nate Lowe strikeout, Leody Taveras’s flyout, and a Sam Huff ground out.

Top 4th

The Texas Rangers made several defensive substitutions to start the 4th inning. Blaine Crim came in at 1st, Derek Hill replaced Leody Taveras in center field, and Danny Duffy replaced Cody Bradford as pitcher. Duffy gave up a triple to Michael Massey and a double to Nick Loftin to drive in another KC run, bringing the score 3-2 Texas before bringing the inning to a close.

Bottom 4th

The Royals call upon another pitcher, retiring Matt Duffy on a ground out and Ezequiel Duran on a foul tip. Josh Smith recorded another walk with four consecutive balls. Justin Foscue’s first plate appearance ended in a strike out on a foul tip to end the 4th.

Top 5th

Davis Wendzel replaced Matt Duffy at third, Jonathan Ornelas replaced Josh Smith at shortstop, and Jesus Tinoco took the mound to start the 5th inning. Tinoco retired all three Kansas hitters swinging.

Bottom 5th

Evan Carter reached 1st on a fielding error by KC’s third baseman Mike Brosseau, followed quickly by a stolen 2nd base. Wyatt Langford reached on a walk, followed by the strikeout of Blaine Crim. Derek Hill doubled to send Carter home and Langford to third, bringing the score to 4-2 Texas. The Rangers called upon Andrew Knapp, who was called out on strikes, to pinch-hit for Sam Huff. Davis Wendzel struck out swinging to end the inning.

Top 6th

Elier Hernandez replaced Evan Carter in right field, Dustin Harris replaced Wyatt Langford in left field, and Jack Leiter replaced Tinoco on the mound. Leiter produced a quick one-two-three inning with three flyouts, one to each outfielder.

Bottom 6th

The Rangers had a non-productive 6th inning. Duran and Ornelas struck out swinging to Royals catcher Luca Tresh. Justin Foscue struck out on a foul tip to end the inning.

Top 7th

Texas sent Antoine Kelly to the mound to replace Jack Leiter. Kelly walked Carter Jensen and struck out Diego Hernandez before allowing Ryan Fitzgerald to reach on a throwing error. A single from KC’s Joe Gray Jr. sent another KC runner across the plate and advanced runners on a fielding error by Dustin Harris. Luca Tresh tied the score 4-4 with a sacrifice fly. Kelly escaped the inning, but the damage was already done.

Bottom 7th

Elier Hernandez belted a triple down the right-field line on his first pitch. Dustin Harris singled down the right field line to bring Hernandez home, making the score 5-4 Texas. Crim sent a line drive to short, followed by Derek Hill grounding into a double play to end the inning.

Top 8th

Texas sent Marc Church to the mound to replace Antoine Kelly. Church retired the first two batters with one pitch each before allowing a single by Devin Mann. The third batter struck out swinging to end the inning.

Bottom 8th

Andrew Knapp ground out for the first out of the inning, followed by Davis Wendzel being called out on strikes. Ezequiel Duran was replaced by pinch-hitter Sandro Fabian, who quickly reached 1st on a catcher’s interference call. The inning ended with Jonathan Ornelas being called out on strikes.

Top 9th

Rangers pitcher Zak Kent handled the final inning with a ground out, strikeout swinging, walk, and fly out to end the game with a 5-4 Texas score.

Wrap-up

The defending champions brought the heat in the Cactus League opening game. From the starters to the young prospects, every player showed great promise. This team will be one to watch this season as they make a bid for another World Series win. The last time a team went back to back was in the New York Yankees won in 1999 and 2000.

Jamie Lawless

A lifelong Texas Rangers fan living in Birdland. Covering the 2023 World Series Champion Texas Rangers & the 2023 American League East Champion Baltimore Orioles. Always & #Forever29

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