ARLINGTON — Manager Ron Washington said the Texas Rangers don’t make excuses when times are tough, and times have been tough so far this season.Injuries have left the Rangers as a shell of what they were expected to be after they had finished their heavy off-season lifting.And at the center of it all, though completely healthy, has been Tanner Scheppers, the reliever-turned-starter.He’s where he wants to be, in the rotation as the Rangers’ injured starters make their way back. He wants to stay there, even as the pitching staff continues to regain its health and as the bullpen has missed him in the eighth-inning role he held down so well in 2013.Scheppers, though, hasn’t made himself indispensable as a starter, and the clock could be winding down on his time in the rotation.The right-hander allowed five runs in the fourth inning Saturday, and Houston overcame the first career homer of Michael Choice in the ninth with a run in the 10th and a 6-5 victory at Globe Life Park.The Rangers have lost all three games that Scheppers has started, and his absence from the bullpen has been felt in two other defeats. That leaves one loss this season that Scheppers’ domino didn’t plow into.“It’s just been one inning, and tonight it was the fourth,” Washington said of Scheppers’ first three starts. “After that, he started getting after it again. It’s a learning experience.”Jose Altuve drove in the go-ahead run off Joakim Soria (1-1) in the 10th on a sacrifice fly after Jason Castro’s drive off the right-field wall escaped from Alex Rios and turned into a one-out triple.Rios had made a critical base-running gaffe in the eighth inning, possibly costing the Rangers the tying run.Scheppers allowed only four hits in his seven innings, and they all came in the Astros’ big fourth. He sailed into the fourth with a no-hitter and a 2-0 lead, but a one-out walk to Castro was the beginning of his demise.Altuve and Chris Carter followed with singles, Carlos Corporan lifted a sacrifice fly and Matt Dominguez singled to tie the game.Grossman followed, and his fly ball carried just behind the right-field fence to give the Astros a 5-2 lead.“It’s just about keeping the crooked numbers off the board,” Scheppers said. “I just didn’t execute, unfortunately.”The Rangers got one run back in their fourth, though, on a double play by J.P. Arencibia that stymied a potential rally after Murphy walked and went to third on a Martin single to start the inning.Rios made it 5-4 in the eighth with an RBI double to left after Elvis Andrus led off the inning with a walk. But Rios tried to steal third with no outs and Prince Fielder, a left-handed batter, up.Corporan easily threw Rios out as the potential tying run, a play that Washington called “a bad decision.”“I was trying to be aggressive,” Rios said. “But with no outs and the middle of the order coming up, I should have stayed on second.”But Choice gave the Rangers a second chance on the second pitch of the ninth, which he deposited into the Rangers’ bullpen for a 5-5 tie. The fact that his first career homer came in Arlington wasn’t lost on the Arlington resident and former UTA star.“Growing up here and watching as many games here, it’s special to be able to hit my first one here in front of the home crowd,” Choice said. “It felt amazing. I wish we could have come out with a ‘W,’ but it was still a huge accomplishment for me.”Castro, though, hit a one-out rocket in the 10th that ricocheted off the bases of the wall in the right-field corner and scooted along the warning track past Rios. Pinch runner Marwin Gonzalez scored easily as the next batter, Altuve, sent a fly ball to Rios in right-center.Andrus gave the Rangers a chance in their half of the 10th, reaching third with one out, but Kevin Kouzmanoff struck out and Choice tapped to first base.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST