ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said Adrian Beltre can't keep going like this much longer.
"He's going to be a run producer," Washington said. "How close he is, I don't know. I'll tell you one thing, what you saw tonight, you won't see that through the season. That's a guarantee."
What the Rangers saw in a 3-1 loss to the White Sox on Thursday night wasn't good. Beltre did hit his sixth home run of the season in the second inning to give the Rangers an early lead. But he also grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the sixth and struck out with two on and two outs in the eighth.
Those were the Rangers' only two at-bats with runners in scoring position through eight innings, and they lost for the fourth time in the last five games. The Rangers scored 10 runs on Tuesday night but that is turning out to be an aberration. They scored a total of five runs in the four losses and Thursday's came after the White Sox had to scratch starter Jake Peavy because of back spasms.
The Rangers instead went up against reliever Hector Santiago, who was making his fifth Major League start. They managed just three hits against him and four relievers.
"I think the whole team is struggling," outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "We had chances to do some damage tonight and we weren't able to get it done. It's all of us, not just one guy."
That may be true but Beltre is starting to stick out. Rangers cleanup hitters entered Thursday's game with 10 RBIs, tied for the second fewest in the league. Beltre has been their cleanup hitter for 23 of 28 games. He also has just four hits in 34 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Only four hitters in the American League have more at-bats in those situations than Beltre.
"I'm not frustrated, but I'm the kind of guy, I like to produce," Beltre said. "I'm here to produce. Obviously, it's not happening. I'm not frustrated, but of course I want to do better. The team is relying on me right now. I'm getting in a lot of situations where I should be producing and doing a lot better and I'm not doing that."
Lance Berkman, who has been in the Major Leagues as long as Beltre, understands what he's going through.
"It's tough," Berkman said. "He's a guy who is obviously one of the greats. At one level it's comforting to see a guy like Adrian can struggle too. But I don't think it's going to be the case much longer. He's had some really good swings. He hit a home run tonight and he's hit some balls hard right at people. He'll get back on track."
Beltre's home run gave the Rangers a one-run lead and starter Justin Grimm kept it that way through 5 2/3 innings. Then it slipped away quickly.
Conor Gillaspie grounded a single up the middle and Alexei Ramirez flared a hit to left. That put runners on first and second for Tyler Flowers, who hits eighth in the White Sox order. Grimm threw him a breaking ball and it hung up at eye level. Flowers crushed it high and deep down the left-field line for a three-run home run.
'Unfortunately one bad pitch ... that's something that can win or lose a ballgame," Grimm said. "I hung a breaking ball at eye level. It probably would have been a ball if he hadn't swung at it. It wasn't waist level or chest level. It was at his eyes. It caught me off guard."
The Rangers still had plenty of time to overcome a two-run deficit and it was the sixth inning that hurt the most. Santiago got Craig Gentry on a grounder to start the inning, then gave up a double to Ian Kinsler and a walk to Elvis Andrus. Matt Lindstrom took over and walked Berkman to load bases.
That brought up Beltre and, after falling behind 0-2, he hit a weak grounder to Gillaspie, the White Sox third baseman, who started an inning-ending double play.
"It's not comfortable when [Beltre] comes up there, I'll tell you that," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But you put yourselves in that situation. More often than not it's not going to work out. It was nice that we got out of it, but I don't like how we got in that situation."
Beltre had one more chance in the eighth. Leonys Martin led off with a pinch-hit single against reliever Jesse Crain. After Kinsler and Andrus flied out, Berkman drew another walk. This time Beltre went down swinging on a 2-2 curveball that was probably above the strike zone.
"I felt better today though I missed two clutch at-bats in key situations that I didn't come through," Beltre said. "I saw the ball better today. I feel a little better. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll improve."
The Rangers are counting on it and the manager is guaranteeing it.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.