Texas Rangers

Rangers hitters are striking out at an alarming rate, especially of late

Texas Rangers hitters struck out 13 times in Saturday’s 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

It’s the 54th time the Rangers, who lead the majors with 994 strikeouts this season, have struck out at least 10 times in a game. Of those 54 games, 25 have come since June 1. And 11 have come in 14 July games.

“The bottom line is we have to do a better job, especially when a guy is establishing his changeup like that,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said about Astros’ starter Jose Urquidy. “Maybe get beat by his fastball.”

The stingy Rangers’ offense that helped build a winning record for the first three months of the season has given way to something more familiar in recent years. Texas ranked fourth in the majors in total strikeouts the previous two seasons. Changing that was part of Woodward’s message when he was hired in the off-season.

“It’s got to get better, otherwise we’re not going to win very many ball games if it continues,” he said.

Urquidy struck out nine and allowed one run (Shin-Soo Choo’s solo homer in the fourth) over seven innings to earn the win for Houston.

Lance Lynn (12-5), the Rangers’ leader in wins will try to be a stopper in the series finale at 1:10 p.m. Sunday. The Rangers’ losing streak is tied for the longest current dry spell in the league.

“We’re going to need Lance to kind of stop the bleeding right now to get us back on a roll,” he said.

Kiner-Falefa returns, joins Double-A Frisco

Catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa came off the injured list Saturday and optioned to Double-A Frisco. Kiner-Falefa was placed on the IL June 7 with a sprained right middle finger.

He was sent to Frisco instead of Triple-A Nashville to help get him more at-bats. He’ll also get some work at third base, Woodward said.

“We can’t provide that here if we called him up. Not every day,’ he said. “We all love the guy. We want him here. We’d like his versatility to be an option for us.”

Before the injury, the Rangers wanted him to concentrate on acclimating himself to catching, which is something he hadn’t done until 2018. But with 38 major league games under his belt before the injury, Woodward is now more open to it.

“We wanted to alleviate that stress from him [before],” he said. “We didn’t know how good a catcher he would be. I think he’s done a fantastic job for having never done it. The dust is settling [now] so maybe he can handle it a little bit better in Double-A.”

Joe Palumbo scratched from Monday start

Left-hander Joe Palumbo, who was expected to start Monday’s game against the Mariners in Seattle, has been scratched because of tendinitis in his right ankle. Adrian Sampson will start Monday instead of Tuesday. Tuesday’s starting pitcher is undetermined but Woodward speculated that right-hander Pedro Payano could be an option.

Astros, Rangers honor moon landing with special bases

Each base at Minute Maid Park Saturday night included a quote commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

For example, Neil Armstrong’s famous quote from the moon, “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Hunter Pence will DH for another week

Hunter Pence won’t play the field for at least another week, Woodward said. Pence, who missed 23 games with a groin strain, was 2 for 4 with a walk Friday night as the designated hitter.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.