The Texas Rangers’ offense reverted back to some similar traits Saturday, and the result was all too familiar.
The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Rangers 4-1 at Rogers Centre to even the series. Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman (5-2) held the Rangers to four hits and struck out five in seven shutout innings.
After singles from Daniel Robertson and Adrian Beltre to start the fourth, Stroman retired the next 12 batters in a row.
Texas finally got on the board with a run in the eighth against the Toronto bullpen. Rougned Odor walked and Robinson Chirinos singled to start the inning before Elvis Andrus’ RBI single to left made it 4-1.
“We just couldn’t cash in a base hit there,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “If we put some hits back-to-back, then it’s a different story.”
Instead, the same story, especially with leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, played out. Choo continued to struggle at the plate. As the designated hitter Saturday afternoon, he was 0 for 4, including two of the Rangers’ nine strikeouts.
The second came with Odor and Chirinos on base with no outs in the eighth. Choo was caught looking both times, including on a pitch low and arguably out of the zone.
After Andrus’ single, Robertson was caught looking for the second out in the eighth. Beltre reached first on a swinging strike-three wild pitch to load the bases, but Jake Smolinski struck out to end the inning.
Aaron Loup earned his third save with a scoreless ninth.
Choo, who will get a day off Sunday from playing on the Rogers Centre turf, is mired in an 0-for-21 slump. His last hit was in his first at-bat on July 10. His average has drooped to .236.
“With borderline pitches, you either have to put them in play or hit them foul,” Washington said. “Can’t leave it up to the umpire.
“Right now he’s in that mode where he sees a pitch — and he knows what the strike zone is — but he sees a pitch out of the zone and it’s close enough and the umpires are calling it. Some of them aren’t strikes.”
Choo declined to use that as an excuse, but has clearly become frustrated during a prolonged struggle at the plate.
“I’ve never had this [kind of slump] in my career,” he said. “I’m trying to stay positive. Two months and not getting better. That’s really frustrating. That’s hard for me.”
Rangers starter Colby Lewis (6-7) allowed two runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings. In his previous four starts, he didn’t walk anyone.
Lewis threw 106 pitches Saturday, including 26 in the first inning. Thirteen of those pitches came after Andrus failed to make a clean pickup on a hard-hit, but playable, ball to his right off the bat of Melky Cabrera.
Colby Rasmus led off the fourth with a single and moved to third on a two-base wild pitch. He later scored on Dan Johnson’s double to right-center field. Two infield singles, including one by Munenori Kawasaki behind second base, led to a 2-0 Blue Jays lead.
“He threw a lot of pitches in a short period of time,” Washington said. “When he left he had kept us in the ballgame. That was his job to do and he did it. Of course, he would have liked to go deeper, but that first inning sort of did it.”
Three Toronto singles to start the seventh against Ryan Feierabend helped the Blue Jays increase their lead to 4-0.
Robertson replaced Alex Rios in the first inning when Rios twisted his right ankle after fouling off a pitch. Robertson had two of the Rangers’ six hits.
A Rangers leadoff walk in the ninth was erased when J.P. Arencibia grounded into the Rangers’ 91st double play of the season.