ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—John Danks grew up going to games at Rangers Ballpark and imagined pitching there on opening day when Texas drafted him in the first round.
The left-hander with a new $65 million, five-year contract did get his first opening day start there, for the Chicago White Sox on Friday in Robin Ventura’s managerial debut, a 3-2 loss to the two-time defending American League champion Rangers.
“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.”
The Rangers used a familiar and successful script to win their opener just over five months after twice coming within one strike of a World Series championship before losing in seven games to St. Louis. It was a picture-perfect day — 75 degrees under blue skies.
Ian Kinsler had a leadoff double in the first for Texas before a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus moved him to third and a sac fly by Josh Hamilton brought him home. Then 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 Michael Young.
Before the game, Ventura 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,” said Ventura.
Ventura, a surprise hire by the White Sox after Ozzie Guillen departed to become Miami’s new 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.”
Colby Lewis (1-0), like Danks a former first-round pick by the Rangers, struck out nine in his first opening day start. Three relievers then worked scoreless innings, with new closer Joe Nathan pitching a perfect ninth.
“A well-played game,” said Young, the longest-tenured Ranger in his 12th season.
Danks grew up in Austin about three hours away, and was drafted ninth overall in 2003. But the Rangers traded him to Chicago in December 2006.
“I was having to control my anxiousness and try not to overthrow, but I think it was mainly the first start of the year, opening day, there’s a lot of excitement,” said Danks, 1-5 in six career starts at Rangers Ballpark. “The fact it was in Texas didn’t carry a whole lot of extra weight. I’ve been here a few times since the trade.
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.
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 he faced in the seventh after Texas regained the lead and Lewis left.
Dunn pulled a ball into the second deck in right field off Lewis 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.
Notes: It is the sixth time Dunn has 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.
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