Beltre’s struggles continue in loss to White Sox

ARLINGTON, Texas – Adrian Beltre’s first two seasons with the Texas Rangers have been highlighted by Gold Glove defense and consistent clutch hitting.

This season, the defense is still there, but the big hits are missing.

That rang true once again Thursday night, as Beltre and the Rangers again failed to get the big hit as the Chicago White Sox beat Texas 3-1. The loss gave the Rangers their first series loss of the year and also made them losers of four of their last five games.

Beltre wasn’t the lone Ranger to come up empty in big situations as the Rangers went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. But as reliable as Beltre has been in the past, his two empty at-bats in the sixth and eighth innings were huge on a night in which he provided the only offense for Texas with his second-inning homer.

“He’s going to be the run producer,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “We scored one run tonight, and he got it for us. I can tell you this – what you see right now you won’t see as we move through the season. That’s a guarantee. Also, you have to give the White Sox pitchers some credit. We were one swing away from making a difference, and each time they stopped it.”

The biggest swing came in the bottom of the sixth after Chicago had scored three times off Justin Grimm in the top of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead. The Rangers loaded the bases for Beltre with one out. But Beltre, who tied for the American League lead in game-winning RBIs last year, grounded into a double play to end that inning.

He came up in the eighth with two outs and runners on the corners and struck out, ending that threat. Beltre is now hitting just .215 on the season and has been dreadful with runners in scoring position. He’s 1 for his last 16 in those situations and just 4 for 34 on the season.

That’s not normal production for Beltre, who has driven in more than 100 in each of the last three seasons. But he’s confident he can get things turned around despite his early struggles.

“Not frustrated, but I am the kind of guy that I like to produce, and I’m here to produce, and obviously it’s not happening,” Beltre said. “I’m not frustrated, but of course I want to do better because the team is relying on me right now and I’m getting in a lot of situations where I should be producing, and doing a lot better and not doing that.”

How important was Beltre to the Texas offense Thursday? His at-bats in the sixth and eighth innings were the first two Texas had with runners in scoring position. It’s been that kind of stretch for the Rangers, who scored just three runs in the final two games of the series and have been held to two or fewer runs in five of the last seven games.

With that kind of lack of production, the pitching has to be perfect to give the Rangers a chance.

Grimm, who was named the AL Rookie of the Month for April, was good Thursday, but he wasn’t good enough despite allowing just three runs in 6 2/3 innings.

He made just one key mistake, and it cost him as Tyler Flowers, who was in a 1-for-21 slide, blasted a three-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning to turn the game around.

“One bad pitch,” Grimm said. “It was a hanging breaking ball that stayed at eye level. It probably would have been a ball if it didn’t swing at it. He did what he does and unfortunately I had to pay for it.”

He paid because the offense couldn’t produce. The Rangers had just one hit through five innings off emergency starter Hector Santiago. The lefty reliever was forced into action after Jake Peavy was scratched because of back spasms.

The Rangers finished the game with a season low three hits, two of them coming off Santiago in his 5 1/3 innings. The only other hit Texas had was Leonys Martin’s leadoff single in the eighth inning.