Sweep gives Texas best start since '96
Led by Byrd and Kinsler, Rangers score nine early runs
ARLINGTON -- Marlon Byrd says the Rangers will wear whatever colored hat, red, green, if it means wins.
But with the Rangers, there's always been something about red.
The Rangers flashed back to the 1990s on Thursday -- when red was in vogue in Arlington -- pounding the Indians, 12-8, to finish off a season-opening sweep at Rangers Ballpark.
For the Rangers, it was their first sweep of a series to start a season since they did it to the Red Sox in 1996, a historic year for the franchise. The Rangers won their first seven games that season and made the playoffs for the first time.
They started a postseason run of three appearances in four years, also making it in '98 and '99, the only three seasons Texas has made the playoffs.
The theme back then was "Hunt for Red October." It may be too early for the October part, but red, that seems to be the theme right now.
The Rangers decided at the last minute Thursday to wear the red caps they wore in their first two games -- they're only supposed to be worn with their red tops, and the Rangers wore their home whites in the series finale.
"I love the red," Byrd said. "Wins."
Texas did in Cleveland with offense. The Rangers are supposed to hit, and they've done that so far this season, scoring 29 runs in three games.
They scored nine runs in the first two innings Thursday. Byrd had the big blow in the bottom of the first, a three-run home run to center field to cap a five-run frame.
"Pitchers are getting up there with the wind blowing [out] and Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton coming up, and that makes it difficult," Byrd said. "That's a tough lineup to handle, [from the four-spot] all the way down."
The Rangers have now scored four runs in the second inning of three consecutive games. Kinsler had a two-run home run Thursday to make it 7-0. Andruw Jones, playing his first game with the Rangers after making the team late in Spring Training, had a run-scoring single in the inning before finishing the day 3-for-5.
Texas has 18 extra-base hits already -- 37 hits for the season -- but it's more the way the team is scoring runs, also using the sacrifice fly and timely hitting, that's impressive. The Indians actually had five home runs to the Rangers' two Thursday.
"We're taking a consistent approach," said third baseman Michael Young, who had two hits Thursday. "If we continue to do that, we're going to be successful."
The question with Texas has always been pitching, and through the first series, the hurlers received pretty high marks. Rangers starters have a 3.57 ERA as they head for their first road trip in Detroit.
Brandon McCarthy, who had an injury-plagued 2008, wasn't electric, but he did strike out seven Indians. He relaxed his grip on his slider, and that also helped his fastball, which he said he struggled with most of the game.
"Relaxing the grip let me do what I was supposed to do," said McCarthy, who allowed three runs in five innings.
McCarthy did admit to having a hard day's work. He allowed several baserunners, giving up four hits, four walks and a hit batter. He allowed two home runs.
"A hundred pitches over five innings is a lot different than 100 over seven," McCarthy said.
Leading, 9-3, in the third, McCarthy induced a big out in the third. After loading the bases with two outs and receiving a visit to the mound from pitching coach Mike Maddux, McCarthy induced Kelly Shoppach to ground out to shortstop.
Texas won't take red on the road to Detroit -- a whiteboard said so in the Rangers' clubhouse.
But the team takes momentum with it after leaving the Indians battered in as memorable a three-game sweep as the Rangers have had in some time.
"I hope it's power," Washington said of red. "I hope it's our good luck charm."
So far it has been.
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.