ARLINGTON, Texas - On Opening Day, ballparks are clean, friendly and carefully decorated with patriotic bunting. The league and division standings are nonexistent, so each 30 team has hope, even if some have more than others.
Opening Day is a quasi-American holiday, with kids regularly skipping school if their team is lucky enough to host a matinee. Opening Day is revered enough that statistics are kept by each team on that franchise’s all-time record on the very first day of the season.
Among baseball fans who are old enough to remember 20 years ago, Tuffy Rhodes is a household name because of Opening Day. He hit three home runs in the Chicago Cubs’ season opener in 1994.
But then there’s the second game of the season. It’s about as forgettable as a bitter cold day in February.
For the Phillies, however, Game No.2 of the 2014 season felt a lot more like what they can expect for the 160 games remaining on their schedule.
A day after their offense put up two touchdowns’ worth of runs in the ballpark across the street from the place Jerry Jones built, the Phillies played in a taut pitcher’s duel and lost.
Despite emerging in the sixth inning after getting shutout by a 22-year-old, the Phillies earlier mistakes came back to haunt them in a 3-2 defeat to the Texas Rangers last night.
Adrian Beltre slammed a run-scoring single into right-center to snap a tie in the ninth off B.J. Rosenberg to lead the Rangers to a walkoff win.
Rosenberg followed Mario Hollands, who walked two of the three batters he faced to begin the inning in his major league debut. Hollands’ first five pitches were out of the strike zone.
“I’m supposed to get outs, it doesn’t matter if it’s my first time or not,” Hollands said, not wanting to make first-game jitters a crux. “A little [nerves], but not enough to walk two guys. That’s not an excuse.”
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said: "That's a tough spot for him but I thought he showed his stuff. He threw some good pitches to [Prince] Fielder. He might have been one pitch from getting him out.''
Although there was solid starting pitching, some clutch hitting, and one stellar, game-saving defensive play, the Phillies did not have the ability to overcome somewhat sloppy baserunning, which was as costly as the ninth inning relief pitching. In a game that’s first half featured a pitching duel between A.J. Burnett and Texas lefthander Martin Perez, the Phils simply did not put themselves in the best position to win before they got to the ninth.
In the third, either Jayson Nix led off the inning with a single, he but was easily thrown out stealing second when Cesar Hernandez couldn’t convert his part of a hit-and-run play.
In the fifth, Carlos Ruiz led off the inning by reaching on a rare error by Beltre at third, but was doubled off first when Murphy snared a John Mayberry Jr. line drive and fired to first for a doubleplay.
The Phillies’ third baserunning blunder also brought on the first usage of instant replay review in 2014. In the sixth, after reaching on a bunt, Revere appeared to get picked off second base by Perez, but was called safe by umpire Cory Blaser.
After the 2-minute-long replay review, however, crew chief Jim Joyce overruled the call and Revere was out.
“Just one of those things, bang-bang,” Revere said. “Even the umpire said, ‘I thought you had a hand in there.’ I said, ‘I did, too.’ ”
Revere’s error on the basepaths was the final blow, and an out that likely cost the Phillies the game: Both Marlon Byrd and Ryan Howard collected hits later in the two-run inning.
“That was a big pickoff, a big play right there,” Sandberg said. “He wasn’t going anywhere, it was a quick pick. … He’s trying to be aggressive to score on a base hit. It was a quick move. It’s something we can learn from.”
The Phils did score twice in the sixth inning, however, which were the first signs of offense in a game when Burnett and Perez traded zeros for the first five innings.
Hernandez, penciled in to play second with Chase Utley as the designated hitter, led the sixth off with a double, his second hit in as many at-bats. After Revere’s bunt moved Hernandez to third, Opening Day star Jimmy Rollins laced a single back through the middle to bring home the game’s first run.
Howard, slotted in the fifth hole in the lineup for the first time in 7 years, drilled a run-scoring double to right off Perez later in the inning to up the Phillies lead to 2-0.
The Rangers answered back in the bottom half of the inning, when Alex Rios and Mitch Moreland began the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back hits off of Burnett to cut the lead in half. But Burnett got a very big assist from his former Pittsburgh Pirates teammate to escape further trouble.
After Moreland’s RBI single, Donnie Murphy hit a sinking line drive into shallow right. Marlon Byrd raced in, made a diving grab and got up and fired to first fast enough to double Moreland off first for a doubleplay. Burnett got the next batter out to end the inning and his Phillies debut: six innings, one run, seven hits, three strikeouts and a walk.
“You’re going to get that out of him,” Burnett said of Byrd’s play. “You’re going to get that out of all these guys. You see how hard they play. That’s heads up baseball right there.”
Unlike Cliff Lee on Opening Day, who gave up eight runs and still won, Burnett wasn’t lucky enough to walk away with a win in his first start of 2014.
“I’ll take a win giving up eight - but that’s baseball, man,” Burnett said. “It’s fun to watch and we came out on top. Tonight we didn’t, so we’ll come back tomorrow and try to win the series.”
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21