Sports: Shin-Soo Choo hits for the cycle in Rangers’ win

Texas Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo made history Tuesday night: He became the first Asian-born player to hit for the cycle in Major League Baseball history in a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Colorado, according to “SportsCenter.” It was the second cycle this season after Red Sox utility player Brock Holt’s cycle on June 16 against the Braves, and it was the eighth in Rangers history.

The night started off for Choo in the second inning with an RBI double that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Then in the top of the fourth inning he hit a 430-foot solo home run, and then in the next inning he singled in left fielder Josh Hamilton. All that was remaining was the toughest part of the cycle: the triple. Coming into the game, Choo only had one triple this season, which came against the Indians on May 16, and he only had one triple all of last season.

Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo

In the seventh inning he grounded out to shortstop, so with only two triples since the start of 2014 and one at-bat remaining, the likelihood of getting the final hit for the cycle seemed slim. However, in the top of the ninth he hit a ball off the center field wall that then rolled far enough away from center fielder Charlie Blackmon that allowed Choo to get to third without a play at the base. He finished the night 4-5 with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored.

Part of the credit for the performance was the All-Star Break, according to Choo, “I really think the break helped me. It gave me the mental break I needed. I’ve watched a lot of video. I feel a lot better than the first half,” he said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Perhaps the historic night will set Choo off on a run to start heating up at the plate. The home run was his first since July 1, and the four hits raised his average to .235, the highest it has been since June 19, and it raised his OPS to .727, the highest it has been since June 18.

Also worth noting is the comeback by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chin-hui Tsao. Tsao was the second major league player and first major league pitcher from Taiwan. He debuted for the Rockies on July 25, 2003, and went 3-3 with a 6.02 ERA in eight games started. He made some relief appearances in 2004 and 2005, but he then missed the rest of ’05 and 2006 with shoulder injuries.

He joined the Dodgers in 2007 and appeared in 21 games, pitching 24.2 innings, with a 4.38 ERA, but then dealt with injury problems again and missed the rest of the season. He tried to return to the MLB with the Kansas City Royals in 2008, but he never got out of the minors and was released midway through the year.

His subsequent return to Taiwan and the Chinese Professional Baseball League was marred by controversy, though. He played the entire 2009 season with the Brother Elephants after the team drafted him, but after the season he was accused of game fixing. Despite not ultimately being indicted, he was then banned for life from the league.

Unable to get back into any professional leagues since, Tsao continued to train, and remarkably was signed by the Dodgers to a minor league deal before the season. He started off in the minors, but he was called up by the team on July 8.

“As I trained I felt better and better,” he said, according to MLB.com. “I went back to baseball and wasn’t sure I would make it or not. Fortunately, I made it.”

He earned his first win since May 11, 2005, with the Rockies in his first appearance on July 10 against the Milwaukee Brewers, and last night he got his first hit since August 23, 2003. In the top of the fifth inning he hit a double and then scored to tie the game at three. Unfortunately for Tsao, he gave up a run in the bottom of the inning that was unearned and charged with the loss. In four appearances so far, he has pitched 6.1 innings, given up three runs and striking out seven.

Lastly, Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen lost his first start after the All-Star break against the Yankees in New York 3-2 Tuesday. He pitched 6.1 innings, gave up 10 hits and 3 earned runs, but despite his eighth quality start in his last nine games, he was not able to hold the lead and the Orioles could not score more runs for him off Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi.

Wei-Yin Chen

Wei-Yin Chen

Chen started off the game by giving up a double to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a sacrifice bunt to left fielder Brett Gardner and then a sacrifice fly to designated hitter Alex Rodriguez. The hits then continued in the second with two consecutive singles and a double by third baseman Chase Headley that drove in one run.

Even though it was a quality start, Chen’s pitches were not quite as strong as they have been, and his location was off as he gave up at least 10 hits for only the second time this season in 18 starts.

He was able to prevent the Yankees from scoring more runs in the next three innings even as they threatened in both the fourth and the fifth, which allowed the Orioles to tie the game in the top of the sixth. However, he was not able to escape the sixth inning without giving up the winning run to second baseman Brendan Ryan on an RBI double. Although he got the first two batters out, his first pitch to shortstop Didi Gregorius got lined to left for a single and kept the inning alive.

Chen’s record is now 4-6 with a 2.86 ERA, and the theme of his season has been the inability of the Orioles to give him enough run support to win. Thirteen of his 18 starts have been quality starts, but the team only averages about 3.33 runs for him per game. He is 20th in the majors in ERA, but only five players above him have had equal or fewer average runs per game from their teams.

What is more notable is the disparity among the rest of the Orioles starters. The four other Orioles starting pitchers with at least 10 starts are Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris. But the lowest average run support among them is Jimenez with 4.17, almost one run higher than Chen; Tillman has gotten 5.44, Norris, 5.36 and Gonzalez, 4.82.

If the Orioles want to improve their chances of winning the AL East or making the Wild Card, they cannot really afford to continue losing Chen’s quality starts.

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