Holland strong as Rangers take series against Red Sox

07/25/2012 11:44 PM

03/24/2013 1:08 AM

ARLINGTON -- The goal for any contender is simple enough: Just keep winning series.

A club can accomplish that by playing its best or by doing just enough. Either way, September baseball will almost certainly be meaningful.

The Texas Rangers have been in do-just-enough mode for most of the past month, if not longer. But they are doing enough, which seems to get lost amid the injuries and grumbles about the offense.

They took another series Wednesday night as Derek Holland delivered over 7 2/3 innings and the offense churned out runs in its final two chances to beat Boston 5-3.

The victory clinched the Rangers' seventh straight series win at Rangers Ballpark and lifted their overall series record to 10-2-1 since early June.

They have added two games to their lead in the American League West since embarking on that run, and they are tied for the second-best record in baseball.

That's pretty good for a team doing just enough.

"We're definitely doing enough to win series," second baseman Ian Kinsler said.

"We're winning a lot more than we're losing. We're close to 20 games over .500. We've played good baseball this year, but we still haven't played our best. We're going to continue to work and try to get there."

The Rangers maintained their five-game lead in the AL West over Oakland and Anaheim, two of the hottest teams in the game. The Rangers got help from an unlikely source -- the injury-plagued rotation -- to take two of three games from the Red Sox.

Holland carried the mound load on Wednesday, allowing only five hits.

Boston scored a run in the first, and Will Middlebrooks started the second with a single. But Holland would retire 20 of the next 22 hitters until the final batter he faced, Pedro Ciriaco, legged out an infield hit.

The two Holland didn't retire were Middlebrooks and Dustin Pedroia, who hit solo homers. Holland (7-5) has allowed at least two homers in five games this season, but he has won twice since the All-Star break.

"The Red Sox hit my mistakes," said Holland, who finished with seven strikeouts and 100 pitches. "But I kept my pitch count down and went right after them."

Middlebrooks' shot gave Boston a 2-0 lead in the fourth, but the Rangers countered with three in their half of the inning.

David Murphy brought in the first on a one-out double that was the Rangers' first hit with a runner in scoring position in 11 tries. He would score on a squeeze bunt by Craig Gentry two batters later, and Yorvit Torrealba would come home as a Kinsler pop-up landed safely in shallow right field.

Pedroia countered in the sixth to even the score, but the Rangers pulled ahead for good in the seventh as Elvis Andrus scored on a wild pitch by Josh Beckett (5-9).

Nelson Cruz homered to start the eighth to give Joe Nathan a two-run cushion to work with in the ninth as he nailed down his 20th save.

It might not have been the prettiest victory, but it was just enough. That's been more than enough for the Rangers as they continue to lead the pack in the AL West.

"We're playing well," manager Ron Washington said. "We started the second half in first place. We're still in first place. I think everybody is still looking up at us.

"We may have some inconsistent times, but we've got a good ballclub. They know how to win. They do whatever they have to do, and I still believe, before it's over with, it's going to click like it's supposed to."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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