Rangers Walk-Off against Cubs in Season Opener

Rangers Cubs
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Rangers 4, Cubs 3 (10 innings)

ARLINGTON, Tex. (Mar 28) — The Texas Rangers pulled off a thrilling victory in extra innings on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs, 4–3, to open the 2024 season. After raising the banner commemorating their 2023 World Series championship, the Rangers got back to work. Home runs by Adolis Garcia and Travis Jankowski, and a walk-off single by Jonah Heim secured the fifth extra-inning win on Opening Day in franchise history. The Rangers will look to improve to 2–0 out of the gate in the middle game of this series on Saturday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 pm Central at Globe Life Field. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will get the ball for the Cubs, and lefty Cody Bradford will toe the rubber for the Rangers.

Cubs Score First

The Cubs broke the seal in the top of the second. Christopher Morel crossed home plate on a sacrifice fly to center by Dansby Swanson. Morel tripled to left off starter Nathan Eovaldi in the previous at-bat. The Rangers responded in the bottom of the fourth off Cubs starter Justin Steele. After a single to Swanson at shortstop by Adolis Garcia, Wyatt Langford plated Josh Jung, who doubled to right earlier in the inning, with a sacrifice fly to center. The sac fly marked the first RBI in Langford’s major league career.

The Cubs broke the tie in the top of the sixth. A double to to right by Cody Bellinger scored Seiya Suzuki. Suzuki hit a double of his own to left just prior to Bellinger’s at-bat. The Rangers answered right back in the bottom of the sixth. With one out in the inning, Garcia homered to left off Cubs reliever Yency Almonte to tie it back up at 2–2. Almonte came in to relieve Steele, who exited the game with hamstring tightness, in the sixth.

Costly Miscue

The Cubs took a 3–2 lead in the top of the ninth. This happened on a stolen base by Michael Busch, a wild pitch, and a throwing error by Jonah Heim. Busch walked and advanced to second on a walk by Nico Hoerner earlier in the frame. He scored from second base on what Heim thought was a foul tip, and he didn’t immediately retrieve the ball. It appeared on slow-motion replays to tip the bat, though that kind of play isn’t subject to video review. Jose Leclerc, who issued the walk to Busch, didn’t cover the plate, and was charged with the wild pitch.

Heim’s Redemption

The scales tipped in the Rangers’ favor in the bottom of the ninth. Travis Jankowski blasted a leadoff dinger to tie the game 3–3. Heim made up for his mistake in the bottom of the 10th when he lined a single to center to drive in Josh Jung, who reached on a walk from Cubs reliever Drew Smyly, who took the loss. A walk to Garcia moved Jung to second.

Moments later, Jung inched the Rangers closer to the win when he advanced to third on a force out to Langford. Third baseman Miles Mastrobuoni threw Marcus Semien out at home on the play. Semien acted as the ghost runner at second per the extra inning rule when the frame began. On the next play, Heim hit his walk-off single, which sent the sellout crowd of 42,130 into a frenzy that rivaled the noise levels of when they won the Fall Classic last year.

Langford’s Major League Debut

Wyatt Langford went 1-for-3 with an RBI and IBB in his major league debut on Thursday. He recorded his first career hit on an infield single in the bottom of the sixth. Langford produced a 30.5 ft/sec sprint speed down the line to beat out the throw from Cubs’ shortstop Dansby Swanson. With his sacrifice fly in the fourth, Langford became the second Ranger in club history to drive home his team’s first run of the season while making his debut, joining Hank Blalock on 4/1/02 against the Oakland Athletics.

Eovaldi’s Night

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi did not factor into the decision despite producing a quality start in his season debut. His final line was 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R-ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 88 pitches/55 strikes. Thursday marked the first quality start by a Rangers pitcher on Opening Day since Lance Lynn on 7/24/20 against the Colorado Rockies (6 SHO IP). That was the first regular season game ever played at Globe Life Field. The Houston native became the second native Texan ever to start on Opening Day for the Rangers. He joins fellow Alvin High School alum Nolan Ryan (3x: 1990-91-92). David Robertson pitched the tenth inning and got the win.

Cubs starter Justin Steele made his first career Opening Day start on Thursday. He became the 13th left-handed pitcher in Cubs franchise history to start a season lid-lifter. He’s also the first to do that since Jon Lester in 2019. Steele exited the game with left hamstring tightness in the fifth after recording an assist on a Leody Taveras sacrifice bunt. He logged 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball (3 H, 1 R-ER, BB, 6 SO), throwing 3 1/3 hitless frames to begin his evening before permitting a Josh Jung double in the fourth. 

What Went Right for the Rangers

The Rangers had several things go right on Thursday. The home runs by Garcia and Jankowski loomed large in their winning effort. Jonah Heim’s walk-off single sealed his redemption from his throwing error in the late innings.

What Went Wrong for the Rangers

One thing that stands out the most from Thursday’s game was Heim’s error. It’s certainly a mistake that he can learn from.

Postgame Comments

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy was in good spirits after seeing his team win on Thursday. “This game is all about putting a little adversity behind you and your mistakes,” Bochy said. “I don’t want guys dwelling on that. I said, ‘Hey, it’s over. You can’t do anything about it, let’s move on.’ And Jonah (Heim) did that. You can’t get a bigger hit than that, so good for him. I know he felt terrible about the error, but know what, you learn from it. … What an opener. A very exciting game.”

After Bochy left, Heim took his seat. “We had a lot of great at-bats in the 10th inning and they gave me an opportunity,” he said. “Anytime you win a game in the big leagues, it’s a good day. When you feel like you kind of let your team down there and then you get a chance to win the game, it’s even better. Like I said, don’t get that opportunity without the guys in front of me, so a good team win.”

 

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