The Texas Rangers are going to make people forget about those miserable starts of the recent past if they keep playing like it is 1996 again.
For the first time since the season of their first AL West title, the Rangers are 3-0.
“You couldn’t be more excited right now coming off this first series, playing with energy and passion,” pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. “The team chemistry in here is second to none, and right now it’s a special team to be part of.”
Marlon Byrd and Ian Kinsler hit long home runs and the Rangers outslugged the Cleveland Indians 12-8 Thursday. Texas, which got its only series sweep last season in late August, is the only American League team still undefeated.
“This team has a different feel,” said Byrd, who matched a career high with five RBIs. “We go out there and we’re expecting to win now.”
The Rangers got off to a 7-16 start last season that raised questions about the future of manager Ron Washington, who made his debut a year earlier with a 20-loss May that pushed Texas to a season-worst 19 games under .500 by mid-June.
“What happened in the past has nothing to do with what we do now,” said Michael Young, the most-tenured Ranger in his ninth season. “We’re focused on the task at hand, and I think that showed the first three games.”
Byrd’s homer was a three-run shot that capped a five-run first off Carl Pavano (0-1), who made his first start for Cleveland after being a free-agent bust with the Yankees the past four seasons.
“I was trying to be aggressive and I let some pitches get away from me,” said Pavano who gave up nine runs pitching into the second. “That put me more in a defensive mode. It’s disappointing.”
Cleveland hit five homers, including two by Grady Sizemore, but couldn’t rally from an early 9-1 deficit. The Indians last were 0-3 in 1996, though they did come back to win 99 games and the AL Central that season.
“We saw some signs offensively,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Our guys are never going to quit. They’re going to fight all the way through.”
Sizemore hit a pair of two-run homers for Cleveland while Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Kelly Shoppach, who is from nearby Fort Worth, added solo shots.
Texas won its first seven games and went on to win its first AL West title in 1996. They won the division again in 1998 and 1999, but still haven’t won a playoff series.
McCarthy (1-0) struck out seven in his five innings, striking out the side twice though he didn’t have a 1-2-3 inning. He walked four and left with an 11-3 lead after 105 pitches.
Pavano retired only three of the 12 batters he faced. The only time Pavano recorded fewer outs in 175 previous starts was for Florida in June 2003, when the right-hander gave up six runs without an out against Boston.
Kinsler, who had three hits and three RBIs, led off with a single and Michael Young doubled. Josh Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly, Andruw Jones had an RBI single in his first Texas at-bat, Nelson Cruz walked and Byrd hit a 418-foot shot to the hill in center.
Pavano walked No. 9 hitter Omar Vizquel to start the second before Kinsler’s 415-foot homer to left, and was done two batters later.
After winning 18 games for the Marlins in 2004, Pavano signed a $40 million, four-year deal with the Yankees. His first season in the Bronx was cut short by shoulder tendinitis and he missed spring training in 2006 with a bad back before elbow surgery. He had reconstructive elbow surgery in ’07 and made seven starts at the end of last season.
Pavano got a $1.5 million, one-year deal from the Indians in January.
Jones, a five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove center fielder for Atlanta, hit .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 games in an injury-plagued season for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after signing a $36 million contract.
Jones, the fifth outfielder and a part-time DH, went 3-for-5 with a double and scored twice in his first appearance for Texas since he made the team during spring training after signing a minor league deal.