Holland stoked to pitch Wash into Rangers history

OAKLAND, Calif. -- If he keeps this up, Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland is going to become known as an A's killer.

Holland blanked the A's for eight innings Sunday, allowing just four hits in a 4-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics at the O.co Coliseum. He struck out 10 -- tying his season high -- and walked only two.

Holland improved to 5-1 for his career against the A's and has won five straight decisions versus Oakland. He hasn't lost to the A’s since Aug. 4, 2009, his first career start against them.

"The main thing is this was a big game for us," Holland said. "Any way to gain some ground against Oakland is huge. They've been in first place for a reason, and we're coming right behind them for a reason, too."

The Rangers cut Oakland's lead in the American League West to 2½ games and won the three-game series, taking two of three.

Holland (9-6) had great support from his defense, especially shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Ian Kinsler. But his best friend Sunday was a locked-in changeup that baffled the A's all day.

"I used it in every count, no matter what the situation was," Holland said. "I thought it was a big pitch. It kept those guys off balance. It made my fastball that much better. It was huge to be able to do that. It's been a pitch that's always been in my repertoire since the minor leagues, and to be able to really get it going again has been huge."

Holland received plenty of offensive support from Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland. Cruz hit a solo home run off A's right-hander A.J. Griffin in the second inning, his 27th blast of the season extending the Rangers' lead to 2-0. Moreland hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Griffin, who has allowed 28 home runs, the most in the majors.

"I definitely knew he had given up a few home runs, but you don't really look into that because if you go up there trying to hit them, most of the time it doesn't work out that way," said Moreland, who has 16 home runs.

"You just try to go up there and get a good pitch,” he said. “Get a good pitch in the zone and make something happen with it.”

Moreland said the story of the day was what Holland did.

“You know, eight innings,” he said. “Just really dominated the game from the first pitch. It was a lot of fun to play behind him. He carried us through it today."

Holland shared the spotlight with Ron Washington, who won his 582nd game and became the Rangers’ winningest manager in franchise history, breaking a tie with Bobby Valentine. His players gave Washington a celebratory beer shower in the clubhouse.

"It means a lot to me," said Washington, a former A's coach. "I came in here as a novice, a guy that had never managed at the major league level before. And seven years later I become the winningest manager in Texas Rangers history. It does mean a lot. But anytime you're successful in life, there's always other people that help you get there.”

"The organization gave me a chance,” he said. “They supplied me with the players. My coaches handed out the mandate that I wanted and the way we wanted to play the game. The players bought into it, and we're winning ballgames.

“As the manager, you only win because the players play well. I'm only as good as they are."

Holland said it was special for him to help Washington make history.

"Me and him have had a real strong relationship," Holland said. "He's helped me out both mentally and physically. Everything about the game, he's been a strong leader to me. I've loved playing for him, and I think this was a big achievement for him. And it was good for me to be able to do that for him."

Kinsler has been with the Rangers for all of Washington's victories.

"He's going to get a lot more," Kinsler said. "It's not going to stop here. He's grown with this organization. He's established a winning environment. His players trust him. His players like playing for him. It's a pretty cool accomplishment.”

"It's been a lot of fun,” he said. “We still want to get that World Series title under his belt. That's the goal. That's always been his goal. That's always been this organization's goal since he arrived."