Blue Jays spoil Rangers home opener before largest MLB crowd

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Steven Matz struck out nine in his Toronto debut, Marcus Semien and Cavan Biggio hit back-to-back homers and the Blue Jays won 6-2 in the home opener for the Texas Rangers on Monday before the largest MLB crowd since the pandemic.

Toronto, 3-1 for the first time since 2015, went ahead 4-0 in the second after Biggio’s solo homer followed a two-out, two-run shot by Semien off Texas starter Mike Foltynewicz (0-1).

The Rangers announced a sellout crowd of 38,283 for their 50th home opener in Texas, the second in the $1.2 billion retractable-roof stadium 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.

Matz (1-0) allowed one run and two hits over 6 1/3 innings, 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 threw 62 of 91 pitches for strikes, with one walk, one hit batter and four consecutive strikeouts to end his outing.

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 club record. The hit scored Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the first starting shortstop in a home opener for the Rangers other than Elvis Andrus since 2008. Andrus was traded to AL West rival Oakland in February.

Foltynewicz struck out seven (of his first eight outs) and walked three while needing 95 pitches to get through four innings. He went to full counts on six of the first eight batters he faced, and eight overall.

An NL All-Star in 2018 with Atlanta, Foltynewicz made only one start for Atlanta last season, allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings before spending the rest of the season at the Braves’ alternate site. He signed a $2 million, one-year contract with the Rangers just before spring training.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: Danny Jansen was replaced at catcher in the seventh, an inning after he took a foul tip off the inside of his right knee.

UP NEXT

Right-hander Tanner Roark (2-3, 6.80 ERA in 11 starts last season) makes his season debut for Toronto. The Rangers use their second set of tandem starters when right-hander Dane Dunning, acquired when Lance Lynn was traded to the Chicago White Sox, makes his first Texas start. Lefty Taylor Hearn is expected to follow him.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.