Big first inning sparks Blue Jays

The Associated Press
Schuyler Dixon

ARLINGTON, Tex.–Steve Pearce didn’t want to wait around for Cole Hamels’ confounding change-up.
So Toronto’s lead-off hitter took a big swing at the first pitch he saw: a high fastball in just about a perfect spot for a hitter.
Pearce homered on the first pitch of the game, and Kendrys Morales added a three-run shot later in the first inning, as the Blue Jays beat the Rangers 7-4 yesterday afternoon.
“Just ready to hit, ready to attack him early,” Pearce said of his first career lead-off homer. “That was the game plan.
“You don’t want to wait around and let him bury you with that change-up,” he noted.
“He’s got some good stuff.”
Jaime Garcia (1-0) won while facing Texas for the first time in the 31-year-old’s 176th career start.
The left-hander allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, leaving after Joey Gallo’s two-run homer.
The 445-foot shot down the line in right was the Texas slugger’s third of the season.
After becoming the first Texas pitcher to get the first eight outs on strikeouts in a win at Oakland in his previous start, Hamels (1-2) let four of the first five hitters reach in the left-hander’s second-straight home loss.
The first was on opening day.
Hamels, who started 9-1 each of the past two seasons, gave up seven runs (five earned) and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, along with two walks and five strikeouts.
He struck out 11 in five innings against the A’s.
Pearce’s drive soared well above the 14-foot wall in left field, just inside the foul pole.
After Josh Donaldson struck out, Justin Smoak and Yangervis Solarte both singled.
Morales’ liner to the opposite field then went into the Texas bullpen in right-centre for the switch-hitter’s first of the season.
“Something where you just have to be able to execute early,” Hamels said. “The first game of the season, very similar situation.
“So I think that’s going to be a lot more of my focus, as we go out, is really trying to execute from the very first pitch.”
With the bases loaded and the Jays leading 7-3 in the seventh, Ryan Tepera struck out Adrian Beltre before getting Gallo on an inning-ending pop-out.
Robert Osuna retired four-straight for his fourth save after hitting Rougned Odor with a pitch to load the bases in the eighth.
“We had to burn through our bullpen pretty good,” Jays’ manager John Gibbons noted.
“You never like to do that this time of year so you won’t see that often probably,” he added. “But he [Osuna] shut it down.”
Texas pitcher Bartolo Colon struck out four-straight during two scoreless innings in his first relief appearance since 2016 with the N.Y. Mets.
The 44-year-old right-hander started the fifth game for the Rangers before Martin Perez came off the disabled list to join the rotation.
It was the 10th relief appearance compared to 529 starts for Colon, who is in his 21st season.
“He’s a valuable part of what we’re doing, whether it’s in the bullpen or the starting rotation,” Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister said.
“We’ll continue to look at it daily.”
Elsewhere in the AL, Baltimore beat New York 8-7 (12 innings), Boston topped Tampa Bay 8-7, Cleveland downed Kansas City 3-1, Detroit nipped Chicago 1-0, and L.A. upended Oakland 6-1.
Seattle at Minnesota was postponed.
Over in the NL, Miami doubled Philadelphia 6-3, Pittsburgh dumped Cincinnati 5-0, Chicago beat Milwaukee 3-0, Arizona downed St. Louis 4-1, Atlanta blanked Colorado 4-0, L.A. nipped San Francisco 2-1 (10 innings), and N.Y. topped Washington 6-5 (12 innings).
Houston beat San Diego 4-1 in interleague play.