Delino DeShields opened things for the Texas Rangers’ offense Friday by legging out a routine grounder to second base, and Shin-Soo Choo followed by doing what he does more often than any of his teammates — draw a walk.
The duo then pulled off a double steal, and each ended up scoring.
DeShields scored two more times, and Choo came home once more.
The Rangers’ lineup had that 2015 feel to it.
The duo that helped spark the offense last September en route to the American League West title is back together again, only because Adrian Beltre could miss the rest of the season.
But if the Rangers are going to support their pitching staff enough to hang around in the wild-card hunt, their offense is going to need base runners. DeShields and Choo are their best bets.
“We’ve always worked well together,” DeShields said. “Our goal when we’re hitting 1-2 is to get on base six times between the two of us. When we get on base, we score runs and we win games. It something that works out for us, and we’re comfortable.”
The combination helped get the Rangers going Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels, but the bullpen unraveled at the worst time in a 7-4 loss in 10 innings.
DeShields walked in the first, went to third on a double by Choo and scored the game’s first run as Elvis Andrus grounded out. Carlos Gomez homered in the second and scored a run in the fourth.
Through two September games, DeShields has reached base seven times and Choo three. They have scored six runs. The Rangers were headed toward a 2-0 September record until C.J. Cron hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth off Ricky Rodriguez to force extra innings where Jose Leclerc walked the first three batters in the 10th to give the Angels an opening.
With the offense down its best player, the Rangers are going to have to manufacture more runs with walks, stolen bases and productive outs instead of relying on the home run. The Rangers still have that, but Beltre’s absence means they don’t have it as much.
“Those are the things we’re going to have to do without Adrian in the lineup,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’re going to have to have productive outs when we have opportunities, and we’re going to have guys that continue to work to get on base.”
The Rangers took eight walks Friday and stole four bases. DeShields had two walks and a steal Saturday. Choo leads the team with 71 walks, which was sixth in the league entering Saturday.
Walks take their toll on pitchers. They extend innings. They give teams more chances to score.
The stolen-base threat can disrupt a pitcher and give batters more fastballs to hit as teams try to limit the running game.
“When he’s on base, there’s a high percentage he’s going to score,” Choo said of DeShields. “We make pitchers throw a lot of pitches. He’s a high on-base percentage guy with speed. I’m an on-base percentage guy. We’re going to score two or three runs a game, at least, if we’re on base.”
September, plus four October games, of 2015 is the best example of how well DeShields and Choo can click. They combined to score 52 runs even though DeShields was slowed by a knee injury, and the offense scored 176 times.
Choo was the AL Player of the Month for September as he betted .404 with a .515 on-base percentage. He became the first player to lead the majors in September in average, on-base percentage, hits and runs since Willie Mays in 1958.
The Rangers can’t expect that again this season, but they know the punch that the DeShields-Choo 1-2 combo can provide.
It’s starting to feel a lot like September 2015.
“I think so,” Choo said.
“A little bit,” DeShields said. “He told me last night he likes it when I bat leadoff.”
Rangers vs. Angels
2:05 p.m. Sunday, FSSW