Choo doesn't start vs. Halos, but pinch-hits

Choo doesn't start vs. Halos, but pinch-hits

ANAHEIM -- Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was feeling better Monday, but manager Jeff Banister was still not ready to put him back in the starting lineup. However Choo did pinch-hit in the ninth inning of a 9-5 loss to the Angels.

Choo had been out four straight games while dealing with tightness in his lower back. The injury started bothering him before the All-Star break and has continued.

"Every day it feels a little bit better," Choo said before the game. "It's not exactly where I want it but I talked to [Banister] ... I said, 'Nobody plays with their body feeling perfect. I could probably play today,' but he said probably one more or two more days. The bottom line is I can play."

Ryan Rua has started four straight games while Choo has been out and the opposing team had a right-handed starter on the mound in each game. Rua was a .333 hitter against left-handers, but .225 against right-handers going into Monday's game.

Rua's sliding grab

Choo is also the Rangers' best option at the leadoff spot. His .380 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot was the second highest among 21 American League players with at least 100 at-bats there entering Monday. Rougned Odor, who has been the club's other leadoff hitter, had the lowest at .259. Jurickson Profar led off Monday.

"Choo has been a very productive hitter for us," Banister said. "His on-base and he's got some power up there. It's the true leadoff professional at-bat that we miss."

Odor was 1-for-12 in the three games in Chicago and the Rangers scored five runs. The Rangers are 15-16 and averaging 4.06 runs per game with Odor hitting leading off. They are 15-12 and scoring 5.19 runs per game with Choo at the top of the lineup.

Mazara dropped to eighth spot

Outfielder Nomar Mazara entered Monday hitting .198 in his past 30 games, dropping his average from .322 to a season-low .277. On Monday, Banister moved him to the eighth spot in the lineup for only the second time.

Mazara's RBI single

The only thing Banister has really seen is Mazara has occasionally been a little too aggressive, eager and out front on pitches.

"If it's not your pitch, you've got to lay off," Banister said. "For a young hitter, there is a fine line between being aggressive and holding your ground. What makes you successful can also be part of the growing pains. Working through that is what takes you from a young hitter into a better than average hitter."

Otherwise Banister said he hasn't seen any ill effects with Mazara from his struggles at the plate.

"He shows up the same time every day, goes through his routine, works hard and has a smile on his face," Banister said. "You don't see him at the end of the bench building a dungeon for himself. When a player like that changes his pattern of behavior, it makes you notice. I haven't seen that."

Hamels dominates at Wrigley

Cole Hamels held the Cubs to one run in eight innings in a 4-1 victory at Wrigley Field on Sunday. Hamels is 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his past five starts at Wrigley. In each of those five starts, he has pitched at least seven innings and allowed one or fewer runs.

That's the longest streak by any pitcher in the park's 103-year history.

"He's just a really good pitcher," Cubs slugger Kris Bryant said. "He's really underrated. You don't hear people talking about him on TV -- at least I don't. I think he's one of the best pitchers in the game and he does it so consistently. He's a tough one to face. You're talking about a lefty with velocity like that -- and you don't see it that often."

Rangers beat

• Catcher Bryan Holaday began his medical rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Round Rock on Monday. He is on the disabled list with a bruised left thumb and is eligible to come off Tuesday.

Elvis Andrus didn't start Monday, but had 18 RBIs in his past 19 games. The next most by a Ranger in that stretch was Adrian Beltre and Odor with 12 each.

• The Rangers have announced their June Minor League award winners: Class A High Desert third baseman Juremi Profar (Player), Double-A Frisco left-hander Victor Payano (Pitcher), High Desert right-hander Cody Palmquist (Reliever), and Frisco infielder Alberto Triunfel (Defender).

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.