It's Opening Day. It's not the biggest one in Rangers history, or even one of the five biggest. This Rangers team doesn't have the talent level, expectations or big names that have come with so many recent Aprils at Globe Life Park. Still, with the first game of the season comes a clean slate, a .500 record and a chance, however slight, that this could be the year that Arlington's team finally wins its first championship.
Ahead of this afternoon's 2:40 first pitch, here are five things you should know.
How do I watch the game at the office?
Ideally, you can push your lunch a little later in the day and get home to catch most of the game. If your office isn't that flexible, or you want to make sure you don't miss a pitch, there are multiple options at your disposal.
If your cable, satellite or over-the-top package includes Fox Sports Southwest, your credentials should let you log into Fox Sports Go, either through your web browser or mobile device. If you've cut the cord completely, DirecTV Now, Youtube TV, Hulu Live TV and Sling all have free trials available and will grant you the same access to Fox Sports Go, depending on the package you sign up for. If the Fox stream is slow, you can also watch the game on the service for which you signed up.
Even those who can't afford to get caught watching streaming video at the office have a decent alternative. Rangers Hall of Fame broadcaster Eric Nadel's call of the game is available, as always, from MLB's At Bat app, as long as you're willing to fork over $4 a month for a subscription.
The Rangers aren't going to be great, but they could be good enough.
According to preseason number crunching from the baseball analytics site Fangraphs, the Rangers are expected to finish last in the American League West, winning just 77 games. Given the unsettled nature of the team's pitching staff, that doesn't seem that far off.
If the Rangers are just a bit better, however, they'll have a chance to make the playoffs. In 2017, the Twins squeaked into the American League's second wild card spot with just 85 wins. Get into the playoffs, and any team has a chance at the championship, thanks to the huge role that luck plays in baseball's postseason.
The Astros are going to be great.
The Astros, whom the Rangers are taking on Thursday, have the chance to be truly great. Coming off a runaway AL West championship and World Series win over the Dodgers in 2017, the Astros could be even better this season, with another year of developmental time for their budding stars and the addition of All-Star starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. Fangraphs — notoriously conservative in its predictions — says they should win 100 games. If the Astros get within five of that prediction, they'll win the division without much of a fight.
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Jeff Banister has a chance to join baseball's avant-garde.
With his pitching staff in flux, Rangers manager Jeff Banister has a chance to do some truly interesting things with the team's rotation and bullpen. Throughout the spring, Banister signaled that he might use a six-man rotation — for the last couple of decades, teams have used five starters — at times this year, which could save his best arms a lot of wear and tear throughout the season.
In the bullpen, Banister may go without a true closer, allowing his best pitchers to pitch in the biggest situations, regardless of what time those situations come in the game. If Banister trots out Jake Diekman or Matt Bush in the middle innings Thursday, it could be a sign that he's breaking out of the traditional, role-defined bullpen.
Watch Joey Gallo every time he comes to the plate.
Joey Gallo hit 41 home runs in 532 plate appearances last year. This season, he figures to get at least 100 at-bats more as an everyday starter. He could easily hit 50 home runs. With a little luck, he could even break Alex Rodriguez's steroid-tainted team record of 57.
Gallo strikes out a ton and will never hit .300, but if he can get his batting average to around .250, he can be an MVP candidate, thanks to his power, decent defense and surprising speed. He's the player to watch for the Rangers on Thursday and for the rest of the season.