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Tejeda superb in home opener

Tejeda superb in home opener

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington was asked what he will remember from his first Major League victory.

"Pitching and defense," Washington said. "We pitched and we caught the ball. That's what I've been preaching."

That was indeed the gospel according to Washington in Spring Training, and the Rangers lived it on Good Friday, especially their starting pitcher Robinson Tejeda.

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Tejeda overpowered the Boston Red Sox with his fastball for seven scoreless innings and then Joaquin Benoit and Akinori Otsuka did the rest, pitching the Rangers to a 2-0 victory before 51,548 fans at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"Robbie was incredible," shortstop Michael Young said after the Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak in front of the second largest crowd at the Ballpark.

Tejeda allowed two hits, walked three and struck out one. He gave up single to J.D. Drew in the first when he couldn't handle a comebacker to the mound in the second and a double to Coco Crisp in the fifth that just eluded Brad Wilkerson in deep left field.

Other than that Tejeda was in complete control. Sixteen of his 21 outs came on either pop ups or fly balls.

"This game means a lot to me," Tejeda said. "First game, Opening Day. For me it was great. It was on my mind that I needed to give these guys a win."

This was the fourth time the Rangers have won their home opener with a shutout. They did it in 1979, 1980 and again in 1989 when Charlie Hough shut out the Detroit Tigers.

What's even more rare is the Rangers being able to win a game while scoring two runs or less. Since their last division title in 1999, the Rangers have won just 27 games scoring two runs or less. The Angels have won 45 such games in that stretch, while the Athletics have won 44.

"It's big right now," Wilkerson said. "We have a reputation where we don't pitch and we don't play defense. We're not swinging the bats particularly well, so to get a win like this gives us a lot of confidence. We need to win games like that to compete for the division."

The Rangers only had three hits on Friday, all in the first two innings. But they were still able to scratch out a couple of runs against Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield.

Frank Catalanotto started the first inning rally with a one-out walk. Young forced him with a grounder to first and then Mark Teixeira lined a single to left, leaving two on and two out for Sammy Sosa.

That's when the Rangers caught a break. Sosa tried to check his swing on a Wakefield knuckleball and, almost without realizing it, blooped it over the right side of the Red Sox infield. Young came around to score, giving Sosa his first RBI and the Rangers their first lead of the season.

"It was one of those checked swings, a checked bunt," Sosa said. "I needed it. It was perfect."

The Rangers added a second run in the second inning when Wilkerson reached on Dustin Pedroia's error, stole second and scored on a single by Gerald Laird.

That was it for the Rangers offense. They had just two walks and one hit batter the rest of the way. Tejeda did the rest, followed by Joaquin Benoit in the eighth and Akinori Otsuka in the ninth.

"I'm happy for Robby and all the guys who made it happen," Washington said. "They've been busting their tails, playing hard and they finally got some results. Robby did exactly what I preached. He pounded the strike zone. He has great stuff so there's no reason to run away from bats. If he keeps it in the strike zone, he'll be fine."

Tejeda and Laird, his catcher, said he was successful because he kept the ball down in the strike zone. The Red Sox said he was successful even though his fastball was up in the zone.

"He threw his fastball up in the zone from the first hitter to the last hitter he faced," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We continued to not get on top of it. I don't know how many fly outs we had. A couple firm, but for the most part, just kind of lazy fly balls. We just couldn't quite get extended."

Laird said, "The biggest key was throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and moving the ball around. He kept it down."

So Tejeda was good because he was either up or down. All other theories can be discounted, but the final line score was indisputable. He was good and the Rangers won.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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