Clutch K's give Derek Holland confidence

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If Derek Holland has a big year and turns into the kind of No. 4 starter the Rangers desire, chances are he may reflect six months down the road on a key moment in Monday’s 6-4 victory over Seattle.

The tying run was at third with one out in the fifth inning in a 3-2 game and 32-year-old veteran Milton Bradley at the plate.

Bradley had already touched Holland, eight years his junior, for hits in his first two plate appearances.

All that was required for Bradley was a fly ball of medium depth to score Ichiro Suzuki with the tying run.

That’s when Holland came through with his signature moment of the night. And maybe the season. He struck out Bradley on an inside pitch for the second out.

When cleanup hitter Jack Cust went down a few pitches later, Holland was out of a jam and on his way to his first victory of the season.

“I thought it was the big turning point,’’ Holland said. “If he gets that run in from third, it is a tie game and it changes everything.’’

Just as Matt Harrison did a day earlier by pitching out of a jam, Holland's confidence seemed to grow with every step to the dugout after holding on to a lead.

Holland allowed seven hits and three runs, all earned, in six innings. He walked only one, which made his 105 pitches (65 strikes) workable on a cool evening.

“Any time you can get out of trouble like that,’’ said Holland, “it is always huge.’’

Manager Ron Washington said a measuring stick for pitchers is how they handle tough situations, because every one is going to face them.

“Derek bent but he didn’t break in the fourth and he did the same thing in the fifth,’’ said Washington. “I thought he was pretty good.’’

Defensive support, like shortstop Elvis Andrus' play on Suzuki’s ground ball up the middle for the first out of the game, doesn't hurt either.

Holland’s night ended when the Rangers turned an odd, but welcomed, 5-4-3-4 double play.

“Our defense made some big plays behind me,’’ Holland said.