Josh Hamilton Still The Texas Rangers MVP on Opening Day at The Ballpark
The Texas Rangers opened the 2013 baseball season at home Friday afternoon before a sellout crowd, with a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. Unlike many sporting events that have so much pre-game publicity, this game lived up to the hype.
From the emotional first pitch by the father of Emily Parker, a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, to the last pitch by Ranger closer Joe Nathan who recorded his 299th career save, it was riveting. Josh Hamilton made his long-awaited return to Texas after trashing the hometown fans in a television interview earlier this spring. Hamilton was by far the MVP of the game as far as the Rangers were concerned on this afternoon.
Hamilton’s presence kept the crowd alive and energized all afternoon. Starting with the pre-game introductions the crowd booed Hamilton loudly and often. The crowd was cheering wildly for Ranger pitcher Derek Holland in the second inning, when Hamilton struck out on four pitches. Holland pitched well for the Ranger on this afternoon, giving up only six hits in seven innings while recording five strike outs.
A. J. Pierzynski drove in Nelson Cruz for the Rangers first run of the season at home on an extremely generous scoring ruling on what should have been a double to right. Hamilton misplayed the ball off the wall allowing Pierzynski to advance to third on what was ruled a triple.
In the third inning, Hamilton continued to be the “Old Josh”, striking out on three pitches with a man on first base. Again, after the strike out and while Hamilton strolled back to visiting dugout, the crowd loudly cheered for Holland.
In the fifth inning, after the Angels catcher Chris Iannetta singled following a single by Alberto Callaspo, Holland picked Callaspo off second base. 2012 Rookie of the year followed two batters later with a run scoring double. When Holland recorded the third out by getting Erick Aybar to hit a ground ball to Elvis Andrus stranding Trout on second base, again the crowd cheered loudly for Holland.
The start of the fifth inning gave Hamilton a chance to re-energize the crowd when he and Aybar allowed a Lance Berkman fly ball drop between them for a double. Nothing on the field came from it, but the crowd was re-energized by the opportunity to give Hamilton more grief. Adrian Beltre tied the game at 2-2 with his 1st home run of the season in the seventh inning, giving Holland a chance to leave the game after seven innings, with a 2-2 tie after a pitching performance exactly like the Rangers needed from him.
In the Rangers half of the eighth inning Craig Gentry singled to right in front of Hamilton, and then Gentry stole second base giving Ian Kinsler a chance to electrify the crowd. Kinsler singled to right with two outs, and again Hamilton helped the Rangers by one hopping the throw to the plate while Gentry slid head first in with the eventual winning run.
Yes, baseball is back in Arlington, and on this opening day an opposing player was the Most Valuable Player on the home team’s field. Hamilton going 0-4 while seeing only 10 pitches, striking out twice, committing an error that was generously ruled a triple, and then one hopping a throw to prevent the winning run all helped the Rangers win. More than all those things combined Hamilton energized the crowd and made them put last year’s collapse in Oakland that Hamilton was such a large part of, behind them. The fans of Arlington are baseball fans. They are knowledgeable and they know how to cheer and support a winner, and they know how to boo a quitter. Hamilton did that on the Rangers and their fans, and he deserved what he got Friday in Arlington and so did those fans.