ARLINGTON, Texas >> Steven Matz sensed the buzz from fans when warming up before his Toronto debut, then helped the Blue Jays ruin the home opener for the Texas Rangers before the largest MLB crowd since the pandemic.
Rangers fans didn’t have much to cheer about, other than just finally getting to see their team play a regular-season game in the retractable-roof stadium that opened last year.
Marcus Semien and Cavan Biggio hit back-to-back homers early for the Blue Jays and Matz struck out nine while allowing only one run over 6 1/3 innings in a 6-2 win today.
“It was definitely cool, that extra little adrenaline warming up and getting into the game,” Matz said. “It was fun. It felt really good to have fans in the stands.”
The Rangers announced a sellout crowd of 38,283 for their 50th home opener in Texas, the second in $1.2 billion Globe Life Field that has a listed capacity of 40,518 — the announced attendance doesn’t include complimentary tickets. They played all 30 home games in the stadium’s debut season without fans last summer.
Major League Baseball allowed about 28% capacity for the National League Championship Series and World Series games that were played there exclusively last October, with the largest crowd being 11,472. The Rangers said last month they would allow full capacity after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that allowed business in the state to operate at 100% capacity.
“It felt like a real game. It felt like back to the old days when we had full capacity,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Was hoping we’d see how loud our stadium got if we gave them something to cheer about. Unfortunately we didn’t do that.”
Texas got its only run off Matz in the fourth on a single by new first baseman Nate Lowe, whose 10 RBIs in the first four games of a season are a franchise record. The hit scored Mid-Pacific alumnus Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who got a huge ovation when introduced as the Rangers’ first starting shortstop in a home opener other than Elvis Andrus since 2008. Andrus was traded to AL West rival Oakland in February.
“It was nerve-wracking. It felt like my debut all over again,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Early in the game was probably the coolest moment of my career to this date.”
Toronto, 3-1 for the first time since 2015, was ahead 4-0 in the second. Biggio went deep to right after a two-out, two-run shot by Semien off Texas starter Mike Foltynewicz (0-1).
Matz (1-0) allowed only two hits, walked one and hit one batter in an outing longer than any of the lefty’s six starts last season while going 0-5 for the New York Mets, who traded him to Toronto in January. He ended his day with four consecutive strikeouts.
“That’s the way he pitched in spring training. … In command the whole time, that’s what we need,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “First start for the Blue Jays, it was awesome.”