ARLINGTON, Texas -- A pair of left-handers opposed each other in the first of a three-game series matching two American League division leaders.
Texas took the opener of the series, 7-0, Friday night at Rangers Ballpark.
The Red Sox showed that even a team with baseball’s best record can fire blanks against a hot pitcher. And Holland was that. The Red Sox never got a runner as far as third base. Only one reached second. All six Red Sox hits were singles.
Offensive highlights for the Sox? David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 11 with an infield single in the second. That’s about it.
So its tip-your-cap and turn-the-page time for the Red Sox, still the owner of the best record in baseball (20-9), looking ahead to John Lackey vs. Alexi Ogando in the second game of the series at 8:05 p.m. ET Saturday.
High wire act: The fact that Red Sox starter Felix Doubront trailed only 2-0 with two out in the fourth was a testament to either his ability to pitch out of trouble or the lack of clutch hits by the Rangers.
A double play here, a base-running error there and somehow the Red Sox were staying in the game.
Shortly before Doubront’s removal, the Rangers’ hit total was identical to the numbers of outs he had recorded, 11-11. But 10 of the hits were singles, limiting the big damage.
The escape hatch slammed shut for Doubront in the fourth inning on his 97th and final pitch. Texas’ cleanup hitter, Adrian Beltre, plugged the left-center gap with a three-run double for a 5-0 lead. John Farrell had seen enough.
Entering the game, Doubront had a string of three consecutive winning starts. But he also came into the game with the most run support of any pitcher in the major leagues (9.64 runs for nine innings for pitchers with at least 20 innings). Holland lowered those numbers on this night.
Welcome back: Shane Victorino showed no signs of the back issues that sidelined him for the previous seven games. Victorino showed off his throwing arm in the first inning of his return, catching Elvis Andrus with too wide a turn. Andrus had thoughts of going from first to third on Adrian Beltre’s single, but Victorino charged quickly and hit shortstop Perdo Ciriaco perfectly. Ciriaco scrambled after a retreating Andrus and applied the tag. Victorino picked up one of the six hits off Holland, a fourth-inning single.
Nap-o-li: Rangers fans, not forgetting the contributions of Mike Napoli the last two seasons, gave him a nice ovation when he was introduced for his first plate appearance. Even a faint Nap-o-li chant was detected. But the fans didn’t carry it too far. They also cheered when his at-bat resulted in a strikeout.