Extra Bases: Offense sputters, but gets win

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers have scored 10 runs twice this season. So how are they doing in the other eight games? Texas has scored 19 runs total. That's an average of 2.375 per game and a big reason they're sitting at .500 on the season.

Texas pulled out a 1-0 win Friday. But it took a Robinson Chirinos base hit to end an 0-for-14 skid with runners in scoring position in a game where the Rangers had numerous chances to take the lead and then win it and struggled to do so.

The 10th inning on Friday was the latest example. Alex Rios walked and stole second with Prince Fielder at the plate. The Astros had no intention of letting Fielder beat them, so they intentionally walked him. Kevin Kouzmanoff then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.

That's when Astros manager Bo Porter got desperate. He inserted Marwin Gonzalez into the game as a fifth infielder, leaving left field wide open. It was the equivalent of pulling the goalie in hockey for an extra skater down by a goal. In other words, it rarely works.

All the Rangers needed was a ball in the air to the outfield and they couldn't do it. Mitch Moreland hit a ground ball and the Astros came home for the out. Chirinos struck out and Leonys Martin grounded out to second. Just like that, the Rangers' scoring chance was gone.

"That's a frustrating moment in the game," Moreland said. "You do everything you can to get that run across and we couldn't get it done there. We had a couple of other spots where we couldn't get it going. It was a big knock there at the end. You've got to give credit to Robbie for what he did."

But this offense knows they've got to find a way to score more runs. Yu Darvish made sure one would be enough, but they won't have Darvish on the mound every game.

Choo getting on base, but working on aggression: The Texas Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to get on base. They signed him to score runs. They signed him for his patient approach and ability to work pitchers.

So far, Choo is doing all of that.

Going into Friday's game, Choo was fourth in the AL in on-base percentage at .475. He was in the top-10 among leadoff hitters with six runs scored and was top-10 in the AL in pitches per plate appearance at 4.575 (which is also second among AL leadoff hitters).

So what does the Rangers' leadoff hitter think about his early-season success? Not much, apparently.

"It's just too early," Choo said before Friday's game. "I'm not thinking about every 10 games, I'm thinking about every pitch. Hopefully I'll play well, hopefully I'll stay healthy the whole season, but I think when people talk about numbers, it's too early for that. At the end of the at-bat, I want to sit in the dugout and say I had a great at-bat. That's all I want."

One thing the Rangers are working to improve with Choo is his baserunning. Manager Ron Washington wants an aggressive team on the bases and would like to see Choo try to get from first to third, for instance, a little more often when he has the opportunity. And that showed up again on Friday. Choo was at second base with one out in the 11th inning when Elvis Andrus hit a dribbler in front of the plate. Choo should have sprinted to third to put pressure on the Astros' defense, but instead froze at second.

"All we can do is let him know that we believe in aggressive baserunning," Washington said before the game. "He'll finally figure it out. He's in a new environment and the guy maybe doesn't want to make mistakes. But you can’t play the game of baseball without making mistakes. You never know what you can do if you don't let yourself go to do it. We're trying to preach to him to be aggressive. Just learn from whatever bad running mistakes you make and don't repeat him and we'll live with it. I think pretty soon you'll see him start to loosen up on the base paths."

But that's the only complaint you'll hear. Choo has done everything else asked of him, giving this club a solid leadoff hitter who is getting on base and giving the guys behind him a chance to drive him in.

Scheppers trying to apply lessons: Tanner Scheppers felt he improved in his second start of the season thanks to early command of the fastball. Scheppers gave up nine hits in Boston, but half of them were soft singles hit in the right spots. He gave up two runs in five innings with one walk and three strikeouts.

"I was throwing quality strikes and I showed my breaking stuff for strikes," Scheppers said. "That's the big difference. As long as I do that, I'm going to be a ground ball pitcher. I want to keep the ball in the ground. Some of those balls found some holes. As long as I keep the ball on the ground, I'll be successful more times than not."

Scheppers said he "wasn't happy" with going just five innings.

"It forces the manager's hand early," Scheppers said. "I want to eat innings as much as possible. My goal is to throw at least seven."