Juan’s Gone So Kapler Fills the Bill
Gabe Kapler isn’t wasting any time making Texas Rangers fans forget Juan Gonzalez.
Kapler became the first player to homer in his first two at-bats as a Ranger, added an RBI single and showed some strong defense and aggressive baserunning in leading Texas over the Chicago White Sox, 10-4, in Monday’s opener at Arlington, Texas.
AL MVP Ivan Rodriguez chipped in with two homers and five runs batted in, and Kenny Rogers was superb in his return to his original team, giving Manager Johnny Oates and the crowd of 49,332, the largest regular-season crowd in Ranger history, even more reasons to smile.
“This was one of those days where a lot of things went right for us,” Oates said. “For some reason, I’ve got that gut feeling that we’re going to be a little bit better than most people think. And we were today.”
Kapler was a big reason for it, going three for four with three RBIs, three runs and thousands of new fans won over in his first game replacing Gonzalez in right field.
He received standing ovations from the fans in right field when he came out following each of his homers and drew oohs and aahs throughout the stadium for two strong throws. Fittingly, he made a running catch for the game’s last out.
“I think today was huge,” said Kapler, acquired in the November trade that sent Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP, to Detroit. “It’s a really big deal for me.”
Although the Rangers aren’t expecting Kapler to put up Gonzalez-like numbers, he had a Gonzalez-like power show by hitting a solo homer off loser Mike Sirotka in the second inning and another on the next pitch he saw two innings later.
Detroit 7, Oakland 4--Former Dodger Hideo Nomo won his American League debut with seven strong innings, and the Tigers opened by defeating the Athletics before the largest baseball crowd ever at Network Associates Coliseum.
Dean Palmer went four for five with a homer and two RBIs and Deivi Cruz went three for four with a walk and two runs scored to help make Phil Garner a winner in his debut as Tiger manager.
Gonzalez went 0 for 4 with a walk and two strikeouts in his Detroit debut.
A crowd of 53,498 saw Jason Giambi homer twice and Matt Stairs and Frank Menechino hit one each--Oakland’s only hits and all solo shots. The attendance eclipsed the previous Oakland Coliseum high of 51,263 for an interleague game against the San Francisco Giants last July 17.
Toronto 5, Kansas City 4--Tony Batista and Shannon Stewart each homered twice for the Blue Jays, with Batista connecting in the ninth off Jerry Spradlin to win the game at Toronto.
Toronto closer Billy Koch got his first career win after wasting a 4-2 lead in the ninth.
David Wells, who hadn’t pitched since March 26 because of back spasms, took a shutout into the seventh, when Jermaine Dye hit an RBI double.
Tampa Bay 7, Minnesota 0--Gerald Williams homered on the game’s first pitch and Fred McGriff hit a grand slam as Steve Trachsel and the Devil Rays defeated the Twins at Minneapolis.
Trachsel, who joined the Devil Rays in January after nine seasons in the Chicago Cub organization, won his first AL start after 186 NL starts. He gave up five hits in seven shutout innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
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BESTS OF THE DAY
* GABE KAPLER, Texas: 3 for 4, 3 RBIs, 2 home runs in 10-4 victory over Chicago.
* IVAN RODRIGUEZ, Texas: 2 for 4, 5 RBIs, 2 home runs in 10-4 victory over Chicago.
* TONY BATISTA, Toronto: 3 for 4, 3 RBIs, 2 home runs in 5-4 victory over Kansas City.
* FRED McGRIFF, Tampa Bay: 3 for 5, 4 RBIs, grand slam in 7-0 victory over Minnesota.
* KENNY ROGERS, Texas: 8 innings, 6 hits, 1 run in 10-4 victory over Chicago.
* STEVE TRACHSEL, Tampa Bay: 7 innings, 5 hits, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts in 7-0 victory over Minnesota.