ANAHEIM, Calif. — The final out Tuesday night was just out of Derek Holland’s reach, but the left-hander wasn’t sweating the fact that he just missed his fifth complete game of the season.
He and the Texas Rangers got another victory over the club closest to them in the American League West, and that was satisfying enough for Holland.
How he got to the ninth inning was gratifying. Rather than slip when he has in the past, Holland dominated through the middle innings and didn’t squander a big lead the offense had provided from him en route to a 7-3 victory over the Angels.
The Rangers have won five straight games to open their 10-game road trip, and their lead in the West grew to six games as they took advantage of the back end of the Angels’ rotation in the first two games of four-game series.
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A key defensive play by Mitch Moreland helped thwart a possible big third inning for the Angels, and it catapulted Holland to 8 2/3 innings and his 11th victory.
“That’s been my weakness, those middle innings,” said Holland, who admitted that he got a “huge” lift from Moreland’s play. “Just getting through the game without those big innings. I’m used to all of those big innings. They had a couple chances, but they came away with just one run.”
Holland (11-4) had been staked to a 5-0 lead after a three-run third, but the Angels threatened in the bottom half. Howie Kendrick led off with a single, and Erick Aybar followed with a double.
Kendrick would score as Peter Bourjos beat out an infield single with one out, but Aybar would be thrown at third while trying to advance from second after Elvis Andrus’ throw to get Bourjos bounced a few feet away from Moreland.
The first baseman saw Aybar break, picked up the ball and fired a strike to Michael Young at third.
“Heads-up,” manager Ron Washington said. “He kept it on the infield right there. Aybar is a very aggressive runner, and he was able to make a good throw and get him at third base. It helped Holland out a lot.”
Bourjos would get picked off one pitch later to end the inning, and the Angels wouldn’t threaten again against Holland until they scored two in the ninth.
He allowed four more hits and his only walk, with six of his seven strikeouts. The key for Holland, who couldn’t keep a big lead his last time at Angel Stadium, was more off-speed pitches.
“Last time I beat myself with too many fastballs,” said Holland, who threw 118 pitches. “This time I mixed in more off-speed, and that helped keep them off-balance a little bit.”
Young had a two-run single in the first inning to jump-start the offense. The Rangers had 17 hits, including three apiece by Young, Moreland and Josh Hamilton.
Young got the Rangers going after Andrus walked and Hamilton doubled with one out. Hamilton started the third with a homer as the first five Rangers reached against Tyler Chatwood.
Yorvit Torrealba and Young would drive in runs in the fifth and sixth as the Rangers scored at least seven times for a fifth straight game.
Hamilton would leave the game with spasms in his lower back after batting in the eighth inning. He received treatment and expects to be in the lineup tonight.
“He looked fine to me giving up high-fives in the clubhouse,” Washington said. “So I’m sure he’ll show up tomorrow.”
How Rangers pitchers fared: Derek Holland’s troubles in the third inning were squelched by some poor Angels base running. The run in the third was the all the Angels would get against Holland until he issued two in the ninth and fell an out short of his fifth complete game.
How Rangers hitters fared: Josh Hamilton homered to start a three-run third. He had doubled in his first at-bat and would score on the first of three singles by Michael Young. The Rangers have scored seven runs in five straight games and have 31 hits in the first two games of the series.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760