Texas Rangers

Choo stays hot, but Rangers' offensive troubles continue in loss to Angels

Shohei Ohtani scored one of the two Angels runs in the second inning Sunday. While Mike Trout was held in check by Doug Fister, the Rangers lost 3-1.
Shohei Ohtani scored one of the two Angels runs in the second inning Sunday. While Mike Trout was held in check by Doug Fister, the Rangers lost 3-1. The Associated Press

The ever-changing Texas Rangers lineup had a first-time look to it Sunday afternoon.

Most of the 10 players manager Jeff Banister wrote onto his lineup card for the finale against the Los Angeles Angels have been playing regularly this season, except for Adrian Beltre.

And Beltre was the cause of yet another shuffle, and will be until his left hamstring is deemed fit for everyday duty at third base.

He was the designated hitter to end the seven-game road trip, and the usual DH, Shin-Soo Choo, moved to left field.

But the Rangers can't afford to have Choo's bat out of the lineup, even if it means putting him in a position he hasn't played since 2014. Choo just nodded his head and went about his business.

His business it getting on base and doing his best to get the Rangers' offense going. He's been doing that as well as anyone for three weeks, so don't blame him for Sunday's plate woes.

Choo collected two more hits and a walk from his new perch atop the lineup, but the Rangers' only run came on an eighth-inning homer by Nomar Mazara in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

The key for Choo has been a simplified approach that all of the struggling young hitters might want to follow.

"I'm just swinging at my pitch. That's it," Choo said. "I would chase at the beginning of the season, but not I'm just looking for one pitch. That's what I've done before. Every game has been a little bit, a little bit better as far as approach."

Choo pushed his hitting streak to 11 games with a third-inning double, and that also gave him 20 straight games reaching base safely. The hitting streak is the second longest active streak in the majors, and the on-base streak is third in MLB.

His on-base percentage during the streak was .455 entering Sunday courtesy of 19 walks. The 21 walks he took in May ranked second in the American League, and helped the Rangers ranked second in the AL (102).

Choo's approach has been contagious at times but needs to spread more.

"Huge," manager Jeff Banister said. "He knows what kind of hitter he is and what kind of impact that he has when he's on base and drawing walks and hitting the ball around the lineup. When Choo's on base for us we're making the pitcher work, and other guys are seeing that as well."

The Rangers wasted a solid outing by right-hander Doug Fister, who allowed two runs in the second inning and then a solo homer by Justin Upton in the sixth. He has been a steady performer this season, giving the Rangers a chance to win in eight of his 11 starts.

They have only won four of them, though, and he hasn't won a game since his first start in the season's second game. He joined Yu Darvish in an undesirable club as the only pitchers in franchise history to go winless in six road starts of three earned runs or less to open a season.

Fister, who is 1-6 with a 4.13 ERA, has a 2.52 ERA on the road.

"It just means I need to pitch better," said Fister, who has received only four runs of support in his past four road starts. "I just need to keep pushing forward and keep fine-tuning."

The Rangers' offense scored only five runs in the three games at Angel Stadium and only six runs in the past four games. The Rangers have their first off day since May 14 on Monday.

Their lineup continues to be filled with low-average, low-on-base hitters. On Friday, the highest batting average among the last five in the starting lineup was .236 by Jurickson Profar, who had the highest on-base percentage of that group at only .308.

The Rangers are also struggling with runners-in-scoring position after an 0-for-7 day against Tyler Skaggs and three relievers. The glass-half-full way to look at it is, at least the Rangers are getting opportunities.

The half-empty way is that something funky happens when a runner reaches second base. The Rangers are batting and MLB-low .206 in those situations.

"It's baseball," Mazara said. "The biggest thing is just stick to your plan. We need to trust it."

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