<
>

Rapid Reax: Rangers sweep Red Sox

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers swept the Red Sox on the opening weekend of the 2011 season, setting a nice tone to start the year. They won, 5-1, on Sunday. The team had four homers -- all solo shots -- to account for most of the scoring. But Matt Harrison was an even more important part of the story, showing great stuff in seven innings of work. Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse):

* Harrison got off to a terrific start in the game. Besides a slow grounder that second baseman Michael Young made a nice play on, he struck out Dustin Pedrioa and Adrian Gonzalez. Harrison's fastball hit 97 mph, his cutter/slider looked good and was nasty (ask Gonzalez, who couldn't get to it) and the changeup was solid as well.

* Harrison worked the corners beautifully. Part of that is that homeplate umpire Brian Runge liked calling that strike, but Harrison had good movement and had his command on target.

* Manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux showed faith and confidence in Harrison by sticking with him after he gave up a run in the seventh. Harrison loaded the bases with a walk to Darnell McDonald and despite having Darren Oliver ready, Harrison stayed in to pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury. Harrison struck out Ellsbury with a slider/cutter. Washington gave Maddux a high-five when Harrison got the K.

* The 3-2 pitch that ended up walking McDonald sure looked like a strike (and was called a strike earlier in the game). Harrison was talking to home plate umpire Brian Runge after the inning.

* Harrison finished after seven innings, allowing one run on five hits with two walks and tying a career-high with eight strikeouts. A great outing. More in a column later on ESPNDallas.com.

* Nelson Cruz hit one of the longest opposite-field homers ever hit by a right-handed batter at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Cruz missile landed in the upper deck above the Rangers' bullpen (424 feet). Eric Nadel said it was the second time a right-handed batter (on any team) has hit one up there in this park. Chad Curtis was the other.

* Ian Kinsler didn't homer to lead off Sunday's game. But in his second plate appearance (technically his first at-bat of the game since he was walked in the first), he drilled one over the left-field fence for his third homer in as many games. It was an impressive at-bat in that Kinsler saw plenty of sliders, got the count to 2-2 and then didn't miss a slider he could hit.

* Cruz and Kinsler are the first set of teammates in major league history to hit homers in each of their team's first three games of the season.

* Texas hit four homers on Sunday and has 11 to start the season. Wow.

* David Murphy got his first start of the season and took advantage, hitting a homer in the second to give the Rangers an early lead. It wasn't a bad pitch by Clay Buchholz, but Murphy went down and got it to lift it high in the air and into the second row of seats in right. At that point, he was 2-for-2 with a double, homer and 3 RBIs on the season.

Check out this note from ESPN Stats & Information (Mark Simon) on Murphy: He homered on an inside pitch that missed even the black part of the plate by 5 inches. Last year Murphy had one of the better averages in the majors (.180) when he hit pitches out of the zone (MLB .132). He missed with only 31.5 percent of his swings on bad balls (major league average 45.0), and his foul ball rate was six points higher than average.

* Mike Napoli homered on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth to give the Rangers their 10th homer of the season just three games into 2011. Wow. That was also two for Mike Napoli this season (three total for Rangers catchers).

* Buchholz gave up nine homers total last season. He surrendered four on Sunday. He's not alone. Red Sox Opening Day starter Jon Lester gave up three on Friday.

* Oliver came in to pitch the eighth and got the Red Sox in order. After Kevin Youkilis struck out, he wasn't very happy with the home plate umpire, showing some frustration.

* Jonathan Papelbon was impressive in the eighth. For the second straight game, the Red Sox walked Josh Hamilton to load the bases, this time with no outs. Papelbon got Adrian Beltre, Cruz and Murphy to all strike out and keep it a 5-1 game at that point.

* Neftali Feliz came in to close the game and, once again, had to do so in a non-save situation.

* A total of 144,828 fans watched this series with the Red Sox. It was the largest crowd for a three-game series on opening weekend in the history of the park.

* Right away, Michael Young was tested and looked good at second base. Ellsbury hit a soft bouncer to second. Young charged it, barehanded it and fired to first to get the out.

* Harrison chose the blue jerseys for Sunday's game, the first time the club has worn blue this season.