ANAHIEM, Calif. -- The last time Rangers starter Derek Holland was on the Angel Stadium mound with an 8-3 lead after five innings, but couldn't hold it. He wasn't able to get out of the sixth inning and the Angels pulled out an improbable comeback on July 20.
Holland made sure there would be no repeats of that outing on Tuesday. He was masterful in getting ahead of hitters. His fastball was hard and effective, but he didn't rely too much on it. He was able to get his breaking and off-speed stuff over and keep hitters off-balance. And when trouble started to brew, his defense -- and some Angels baserunning blunders -- helped him get out of it with limited damage done.
That trouble came in the third inning. The Rangers had just scored three more runs in the top half of the inning to take a 5-0 lead and Holland then allowed a single to Howie Kendrick and a double to Erick Aybar to put runners at second and third with no outs. After striking out Jeff Mathis, Holland gave up an infield single to Peter Bourjos. The throw to first on that hit bounced away from Mitch Moreland, but still within his reach. Aybar thought he could get to third and tried to take the extra base. Moreland pounced on the ball and made a nice, hard throw to Michael Young to get Aybar. Just like that, there were two outs in the inning and no one in scoring position. Holland then caught Bourjos in a rundown after the baserunner tried to steal second too soon. The inning was over and Holland looked like he was skipping to the dugout.
"Just getting through the game without the big innings was important," Holland said. "They had a couple of chances and I came out of it with just one run instead of it being worse than what it was."
From there, Holland seemed to get stronger. He retired nine of his next 10 batters and was efficient. He ended up with 118 pitches, but that was inflated by a long ninth.
"I got ahead of hitters and that was the key thing," Holland said. "That allowed me to do some things and get some outs quickly."
Holland came within a strike of his fifth complete game of the season, but was pleased with 8 2/3 innings and a victory. The win pushed the Rangers six games up on the Angels, their largest lead of the season.
"It's no big deal," Holland said about not getting that final out. "It doesn't bother me. They were making plays all night. I'm not upset at all."
Holland impressed his manager, who saw a pitcher in control on the mound all night.
"That game was all about Derek Holland," Washington said. "He was sharp. He worked fast. He had a crispness and pounded the zone."
And he came out with a win, erasing the memory of a month ago.
* The Rangers have scored at least seven runs in all five games on this road trip. They are now hitting .326 on this road trip and every starter in the lineup had a hit except Ian Kinsler. In fact, every starter had at least two hits but Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Endy Chavez.
* Washington was pleased with Moreland's heads up play in the third. Moreland threw a rocket to get Aybar. "He got a big out there," Washington said. "He saw what was happening and made a play."