Rangers Beat Angels In Season-Opener

Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, right, is met at the plate by teammate Juan Gonzales after his fifth-inning home run during their season opener against the Anaheim Angels in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, March 30, 2003.
With Game 7 winner John Lackey on the mound, ThunderStix in the stands and the Rally Monkey on the scoreboard, the Anaheim Angels started this season the same way they began last year - with a thud.

Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Michael Young homered, making manager Buck Showalter a winner in his Texas debut as the Rangers beat the World Series champion Angels 6-3 Sunday night in the major league opener.

Lackey was hit hard as the Angels dropped their fourth straight opener. Last year, they started off with a 6-0 loss to Cleveland and fell to a franchise-worst 6-14 before coming back.

The opening game ceremonies took on an even more patriotic flavor than usual.

Thousands chanted "USA" and some shed tears as a military color guard and a Marine horn quintet took the field, four F-14 fighter jets flew overhead, and a moment of silence was observed for those killed in the war in Iraq.

The quintet from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which has suffered casualties in the war in Iraq, received a standing ovation and cheers before performing the national anthem.

"The past couple of weeks, all I've seen are anti-war protesters. To see this makes it all worthwhile," said one member of the color guard, Army Spc. William Tarrant.

Angels fans at the sold-out game also went wild at the unfurling of the championship flag - an event over two decades in the making.

But disappointment began to take shape quickly, as early in the game Young quieted the crowd with a three-run shot over the center-field wall off Lackey to give Texas a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning.

The Rangers rocked Lackey for five runs on eight hits in five innings. In his last outing, the 24-year-old right-hander became the first rookie to win the seventh game of a World Series in 93 years when he gave up one run in five innings of the Angels' 4-1 victory over San Francisco on Oct. 27.

Ismael Valdes made his first start in an opener and got the win against his former teammates, allowing three runs on seven hits in five innings.

Ugueth Urbina, signed as a free agent over the winter, pitched the ninth for the save. He had 40 last season for Boston last year.

Texas relievers combined for one-hit ball over four innings.

The Angels' runs came on an RBI single by Brad Fullmer in the first inning, another run-scoring single by Garret Anderson in the third, and Darin Erstad's RBI groundout in the fifth.

Rodriguez, hampered by a herniated disk in his neck this spring, made it 5-2 with a solo homer in the fifth. He began trotting almost as soon as the ball left his bat, and the ball landed deep in the left-field seats.

Rodriguez missed two weeks this spring because of the neck injury but played the final three exhibition games. He hasn't missed a regular-season game since signing a record 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers on Dec. 11 of 2000.

The homer was the 299th for the 27-year-old A-Rod, beginning his eighth full big league season. He went 1-for-5 and is 5-for-34 in season openers.

Gonzalez, coming back from an injury-plagued year, had a home run, double and single.