OAKLAND, Calif. — With their magic number at five and Los Angeles having already won its game, the Texas Rangers got exactly what they needed Tuesday night.
And Derek Holland.
Harden, the former Rangers pitcher, has never recovered from his disastrous 2010 season, and he hasn't had a miraculous rebound at O.co Coliseum to the form that had made him so effective early in his career.
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But it’s possible that no opposing pitcher can fight the Rangers’ offense when Holland is on the mound. The left-hander entered as baseball’s leader in average run support, and still is after the Rangers teed off on Harden.
Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer in the first, Michael Young reached 200 hits, and Holland allowed only one run and two hits in seven innings as the Rangers cruised past the A’s 7-2.
The victory kept the Rangers’ lead in the American League West at five games and lowered their magic number to 4. The soonest the Rangers can clinch is Thursday night.
“Each and every day we have to go out there and play until they say that we’ve got a spot in the playoffs,” manager Ron Washington said. “Nothing has been accomplished yet. We’ve still got to play baseball.”
The pitching story was Holland, even though some Rangers fans likely took a little delight in Harden’s performance.
Harden quickly retired the first two batters of the game, and his first two pitches to Josh Hamilton were strikes. But Hamilton battled for a single, Young followed with a bloop single, and Beltre punished a 1-1 pitch to straightaway center field.
“I’m seeing good pitches,” Beltre said. “The thing right now is I’m not missing those pitches, and I’m able to make good, solid contact and the ball is leaving the park. I’ll take it.”
Nelson Cruz started the second with a double and scored with two outs on a wild pitch from Harden. Hamilton doubled to start the third and scored on a Young single.
The hit gave Young, who would score later in the inning, the sixth 200-hit season of his career.
“For whatever reason, throughout the course of my career those last five have always been a grind,” said Young, who entered only 5 for 27 in his previous seven games.
“I’m happy it’s over with. When you get 200 hits, it’s health and consistency. If I can get those two things, I like my chances.”
Young added a third hit and a career-best 104th RBI in the eighth to make the score 7-1. Holland had just capped his night by striking out the side in the seventh, even though he didn’t have his best command.
Staked to a 6-0 lead, Holland made only one regrettable pitch, allowing a two-out homer to Michael Taylor with two outs in the fifth.
Holland improved to 15-5 with his fifth consecutive quality start, and his ERA dipped from 4.02 to 3.92. That thrilled him, though the three walks he issued were bothersome.
“The big thing is it’s done, and I can just worry about my next start and continue to help my team win,” said Holland, who entered with 7.5 runs of support per start. “I made my pitches when I need to. That was the big thing. When I was a little erratic, I controlled myself a little bit better.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760