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04/03/07 2:11 AM ET
Lofton reaches milestone in Texas loss
Center fielder steals base No. 600; Kinsler hits solo homer
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Kenny Lofton walked and stole second base in the first inning Monday. The moment was significant. Lofton became the 17th player in Major League history to steal 600 bases and he also became the first of six Rangers baserunners to get stranded in scoring position on Opening Night. The Rangers are still looking for their first hit with runners in scoring position and their first win of the season after a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before a sellout crowd of 43,906 at Angel Stadium on Monday. The Rangers were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, all through the first six innings. They had nothing after that as Angels relievers Justin Speier, Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez combined to retire the last 11 hitters they faced. "We didn't do a good job in execution-type situations," Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. "That's something we stressed and something we did a good job of in Spring Training. We didn't do it tonight, but it's second nature to us. We know those are the type of situations where we will thrive in." Starter Kevin Millwood allowed three runs in five innings to take the loss and the Rangers lost for the fourth straight year on Opening Day. Ian Kinsler's leadoff home run in the third inning accounted for the Rangers' only run in Ron Washington's managerial debut. "If we can get them out on base like we did tonight, I'll take my chances," Washington said. "If we keep getting them on base, eventually we'll drive them in. And if we get pitching like we did tonight, we're going to be more than fine." Lofton also stole third base with two outs in the fifth inning, becoming the first Ranger to steal two bases in an Opening Day game. It was also the first time the Rangers stole a base on Opening Day since 2004 and the first time they've stolen more than one base in a season opener since 1990. As for No. 600, Lofton would have preferred it come in a victory. "That's the way the game goes sometimes," Lofton said. "You don't think about it too much, you just go about your business." No. 601 though, just like the first inning, didn't lead to anything. Lofton was left sitting out there when Sammy Sosa grounded out to third base. Sosa was 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game back with the Rangers. "It felt great out there," Sosa said. "We battled tonight, but their pitcher threw a great game. Some of those balls we hit hard, but right at people. We didn't have a whole lot of luck." The Rangers had runners in scoring position in five of the first six innings and couldn't to get them home. Most frustrating was getting the first two hitters on base in both the first and sixth innings and being unable to do anything with it. Lofton and Frank Catalanotto started the first inning with a pair of walks off of Angels starter John Lackey. But Young, who hit .412 with runners in scoring position last year, hit a sharp grounder right at second baseman Howie Kendrick for a double play, and then center fielder Gary Matthews raced deep into the right-center-field gap to steal extra bases away from Mark Teixeira. Matthews, the Rangers Player of the Year in 2006, stung his former teammates twice with nice defensive plays. Lackey worked out of a jam in the second when he followed Hank Blalock's double by striking out Brad Wilkerson and Gerald Laird. Then Kinsler went deep to start the third and the Rangers were able to load the bases when Matthews dropped a fly ball for an error and Lackey walked the next two hitters. Blalock, hanging tough in a 10-pitch at-bat, followed with a soft line drive into center and Matthews raced in to snatch it just before it fell for hit, squashing the rally. "Seems like Gary knew what we were doing all the time," Washington said. Blalock, with the Angels leading 3-1, started the Rangers' last rally with a leadoff single in the sixth against left-handed reliever Darren Oliver. Brad Wilkerson then drew a walk to put runners on first and second and Angels manager Mike Scioscia made a move, bringing in the right-handed Speier to face Laird. Washington countered by having Laird bunt. But Laird popped up to Speier, the runners stayed put and Kinsler then lined into a double play to end the inning. "That hurt bad," Washington said. "That was an opportunity to get back in the game. We'll do better. We need to execute. They're trying. We didn't get that part done, but we'll get better."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.