Derek Holland looked like Sandy Koufax in the first inning Tuesday night.
Three batters, three strikeouts, 11 pitches for the Texas Rangers left-hander.
After a start like that, naturally, things could go downhill.
But Holland fell off a cliff and by the fifth inning resembled the pitcher he was in past seasons, the one who couldn’t limit damage when an inning started to get out of hand.
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Cleveland scored four runs against Holland in 41/3 innings, and Coppell product Corey Kluber took a shutout into the eighth inning as the Indians snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Rangers.
“It was just a terrible outing,” Holland said. “I thought I was going to have a good game after that first inning. I didn’t do my job, and I didn’t keep us in the game.”
The outing was Holland’s shortest of the season, knocking off his 4 2/3-inning stint May 19 in which he allowed two of the three homers Miguel Cabrera hit for Detroit in a game the Rangers won 11-8.
But it looked like Holland (5-3) would sail into the latter innings after he got Drew Stubbs, Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher on strikes in the first, and Holland scattered three singles in three scoreless innings.
Cleveland, though, scored once in the fourth after Ryan Raburn started the inning with a double and came home on a one-out single by Mark Reynolds. But the first five Indians reached in the fifth, and three of them would score before Holland bowed out with the bases loaded after 4 1/3.
“I thought I was making some pitches, but the ball just kept falling in,” Holland said. “I just didn’t do a good job executing. It’s just one of those starts that didn’t go my way.”
Kyle McClellan entered and got Reynolds to ground the first pitch into a double play to end the threat, but the game was all but over.
One run would have been enough for Kluber, who was making his ninth start of the season. He benefited from three double plays to erase leadoff runners, but he also used a sinker to produce grounder after grounder.
He retired eight straight batters on grounders before A.J. Pierzynski lined a single to left to start the fifth. Kluber would record 13 ground-ball outs, and he didn’t allow a runner to reach third base until Nelson Cruz got there with two outs in the seventh.
Chris McGuiness, though, struck out two pitches later.
“He had good stuff,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who led off the first with a single but was erased as David Murphy lined into a double play. “He kept the ball down. He commanded his sinker, cutter and slider pretty well.”
But Kluber (4-4) couldn’t finish off eight scoreless innings. Jurickson Profar had a one-out pinch-hit single, and he’s scored on a Murphy double that sliced just far enough away from a sliding Stubbs in left-center field.
Kluber surrendered six hits in eight innings, the longest of his career and his first win since May 15. It was also his first career start against the Rangers, the team he grew up watching.
“If you saw through the first six innings we were trying to get on him early, and we just couldn’t center anything,” manager Ron Washington said. “You have to give him credit. He was hitting his spots extremely well.”
Pierzynski added a solo homer off Joe Smith with one out in the ninth. But it was far too little on a night when Holland couldn’t limit the damage in the fifth inning.
“They fought for their at-bats, they made him work and they got some base hits in some situations that mattered,” Washington said. “I thought he made a pretty good pitch to [Raburn]. After that he just struggled to contain them.”