Victors showed their game has great range

Ian Kinsler is congratulated by teammates following his solo home run off Clay Buchholz in the third inning yesterday. Ian Kinsler is congratulated by teammates following his solo home run off Clay Buchholz in the third inning yesterday. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 4, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Before this season-opening three-game set, and well before Ian Kinsler ignited a barrage of Texas home runs (11 in the series) with a leadoff shot on Jon Lester’s second pitch on Opening Day, Josh Hamilton seemed to fire the first salvo.

The reigning American League MVP took issue with so many people picking the Red Sox — and not the Rangers — as the favorite to win the pennant.

“You don’t hear anyone talking about the defending AL champs — at all,’’ Hamilton noted Friday. “So it just adds fuel to the fire. We know Boston has a good team. We know they’ve added some good players to their lineup, but we feel like we’re just as strong, if not better than we were last year. So game on.’’

Game on, indeed.

Texas sent a clear message it’s still the team to beat in the AL after completing a sweep of the Sox with yesterday’s 5-1 triumph before 46,326 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers, who received their AL championship rings before Saturday night’s game, could not have drawn up a better start.

“It’s only three games into the season, but that’s the thing about projecting baseball, you just never know,’’ Hamilton said. “That’s why we play the game.’’

It couldn’t have gone worse for the Red Sox. They were outscored, 26-11, in the series. Carl Crawford went 2 for 11 with five strikeouts. Adrian Gonzalez was 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts yesterday after starting 5 for 9.

“You can’t question their talent and how capable they are of being good,’’ said Rangers left fielder David Murphy. “When the year’s all said and done, they’re going to be at the top of that division.

“I don’t think they’re going to be hitting the panic button. We just played better baseball than they did.’’

Texas erupted for 34 hits and 11 home runs that traveled a combined 4,361 feet. “Really?’’ said Nelson Cruz, who homered in each game. “That’s pretty awesome.’’

And it wasn’t against a bunch of rag arms. The Rangers beat up Lester, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz, who yesterday allowed four solo home runs over 6 1/3 innings.

The Rangers even hit Daniel Bard hard Friday as the righthanded reliever allowed four runs in the opener, tying his career high.

“We’re swinging the bats excellent right now,’’ said Kinsler. “In this game, things like that can switch really quickly.’’

Cruz, who batted fifth yesterday after being in the sixth spot in the first two games, belted two of the longest pokes in the series, including a 424-foot, opposite-field homer off Buchholz that carried into the second deck in right field.

“I hit it good,’’ Cruz said. “I was happy that the wind helped me a little bit. I just know I hit it pretty well.’’

“I’ve never seen anything like that — never,’’ said Kinsler, who took Buchholz deep in the third inning. “I asked Mike [Young] if he’s ever seen a righthanded hitter go opposite way to the upper deck and he said the only guy he saw do it was Chad Curtis, so that’s pretty impressive.

“And it was a line drive. It wasn’t like he hit that thing real high. He’s a really strong dude.’’

Cruz and Kinsler are the first pair of teammates to homer in each of their team’s first three games of the season.

Epic and historic. How else to describe the Rangers’ weekend?

“It’s just one series and obviously it was an exciting weekend for us, getting our rings and coming home for our home opener and having our crowds support us like this, it was a special weekend,’’ said team president Nolan Ryan. “But we also recognize that the Red Sox are going to be a force to be reckoned with throughout the season.’’

As for his squad? “I think this weekend probably sent a message to the rest of the league that the Rangers are a legitimate team,’’ Ryan said.

Michael Vega can be reached at

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