The Texas Rangers started the second half of the season right with a 3-2 road win against the Seattle Mariners after the All-Star break. The Rangers halted a ninth-inning rally from Seattle, but failed to preserve a shutout. The Rangers got their offense going with nine hits, and Derek Holland got the win, throwing 7 2/3 shutout innings. Some thoughts on the win:
What it means: The Rangers are still tied with the New York Yankees for the most wins in the major leagues with a 53-34 record. With the win, they also improved their AL West lead to five games over the Los Angeles Angels.
Pitchers duel: Holland and former Ranger Kevin Millwood put on a show. The game was scoreless through the first four innings and both teams had a combined four hits through four innings. Holland had back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the second and third innings and again in the fifth and sixth. Holland also got out of a one-out jam in the fourth inning. Millwood retired nine straight after a leadoff single from Ian Kinsler in the first. Millwood's dominance dwindled in the fifth inning. In the end, Holland proved the better starter as he posted a quality start and came close to a complete game shutout. Holland finished with four hits, no runs, two walks and four strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
The offense gets going: At first it appeared the offense was still in it's funk that began before the All-Star break, as the Rangers were scoreless with two hits through the first four innings. But the bats got going in the fifth inning with the help of a timely Mariners mistake. Michael Young and David Murphy hit singles to begin the inning and Mike Napoli hit into what should have been a double play, but turned into a fielder's choice when Dustin Ackley lost his grip on the ball after the putout at second. One out later, Kinsler hit an RBI single, but Napoli was called out at home to end the inning with the score 1-0. The Rangers scored again in the sixth after a Josh Hamilton single and an Adrian Beltre two-run homer to make the score 3-0. In the eighth inning, Nelson Cruz was inches away from a solo homer to deep center, but settled for a double. Seven Rangers finished the game with at least one hit.
Walking into danger: Holland narrowly avoided disaster in the fourth inning when he allowed a one out single and back-to-back walks to load the bases. Former Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak stepped up to the plate and worked a full count. After a 10 pitch battle, Smoak popped up to Elvis Andrus. With the bases still loaded, Miguel Olivo hit what looked like a single to right field, but Cruz caught up to it to end the inning and keep the score tied at zero.
Young stays hot: Young built upon his season-high four hit game in the series finale against the Minnesota Twins before the All-Star break with another solid performance. He went 2-for-4 and scored the first run of the game.
Napoli's struggles continue: Napoli had another hitless game accompanied by a familiar strikeout in the eighth inning. He managed to reach base twice on a fielder's choice in the fifth and a walk in the seventh. He also got credit for a stolen base in the fifth. He is 2-for-18 in the month of July and was batting .225 prior to Friday's game. He left the game after the eighth with a bruised right quad.
Nathan saves the day: Joe Nathan earned his 19th save of the season in stressful fashion. He failed to preserve the shutout when he had to pitch out of a jam to preserve the Rangers' win in the ninth inning. Kyle Seager hit a one-out single followed by two more singles from Smoak and John Jaso to load the bases. Michael Saunders hit an RBI single to erase the shutout, but was caught in a rundown between first and second base for the second out. Smoak then scored on a wild pitch to cut the Rangers' lead to one. The situation became more stressful when Nathan walked Carlos Peguero with a full count. Nathan finished the game when he struck out Ackley.
One-man show: The Mariners had only two hits through the first six innings, both off the bat of Casper Wells. Wells finished 2-for-4. The Mariners got their third hit from Seager, who hit a leadoff single in the seventh. Seattle finished with seven hits.
Sun at SEA: LHP Matt Harrison (11-4, 3.10) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (1-1, 4.84), 3:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.