June 27, 2013

Holland blanks Yankees as Rangers finish 5-1 road trip

He needs only 92 pitches for his first victory against New York.

NEW YORK For a pitcher with a history as ugly as Derek Holland’s was against the New York Yankees entering Thursday, it appeared as though his Big Apple highlights this week had occurred Monday and Tuesday.

First, he was ejected from a Counting Crows concert, albeit in New Jersey, and he and Justin Grimm re-enacted scenes from Dumb & Dumber on the streets of Midtown Manhattan a day later.

Then, Thursday happened, and Holland left Yankee Stadium with the No. 1 highlight of the Texas Rangers’ very successful six-game road trip.

Holland tossed a two-hit shutout on only 92 pitches, and Jurickson Profar homered and scored both runs in a 2-0 victory that left the Rangers with a 5-1 record after stops in St. Louis and New York.

That’s a special feeling, Lloyd.

“I haven’t had great success here, and my main thing was to make sure I could go out there and change that,” Holland said. “We were right on the attack, and the offense gave me what I needed. They knew I was determined.”

Holland became the first Rangers pitcher in club history to toss a shutout at Yankee Stadium on two hits or fewer. Joe Coleman did it for the Washington Senators three years before they moved to Arlington.

Holland and Doug Davis are the only two Rangers with complete-game shutouts on two or fewer hits since 1997, and Holland’s gem was the first shutout by a Rangers starter in New York since Kevin Brown’s in 1993.

The performance was the first nine-inning complete-game shutout in the Bronx on fewer than 92 pitches since Greg Maddux did it for Atlanta on 84 pitches in 1997.

“It was great,” catcher Geovany Soto said. “After the first two innings, we got into a rhythm, and he started hitting his spots and had his off-speed pitches for strikes and put-outs.”

That the shutout came against New York would rate as highly improbable. Holland entered the start with an 0-5 record and an 8.85 ERA in his career against the Yankees, and his numbers at Yankees Stadium (0-3, 8.06) were only mildly better.

But after Ichiro Suzuki started the first with a single, Holland retired eight straight until Austin Romine’s two-out single in the third. Jayson Nix took a leadoff walk in the fourth, but Holland responded with nine straight outs.

Robinson Cano walked to start the seventh, but Soto cut him down as he tried to advance on a wild pitch. Holland then struck out Vernon Wells for a third time, and David Murphy grabbed Zoilo Almonte’s fly ball at the left-field wall.

Holland (6-4) sailed through a perfect eighth inning, and retired pinch-hitter Brett Gardner, Suzuki and native Texan Nix in a 10-pitch 1-2-3 ninth inning.

“His slider was really good today, probably the best I’ve seen his slider,” said Wells, the Arlington Bowie product who is 4 for 24 in his career against Holland. “He stayed away from barrels and stayed away from the middle of the plate. When you do that, with that kind of stuff, you’ll have the results he did today.”

Profar, starting for the first time in a week, scored the Rangers’ first run after drawing a walk from Phil Hughes, going to third on Engel Beltre’s first big-league hit in his first career at-bat, and tagging on Ian Kinsler’s sacrifice fly.

Profar’s third homer of the year opened the fifth inning and was the Rangers’ only hit before Beltre started the eighth with an infield single.

“I was just trying to see the ball and hit the ball, and I hit it good,” said Profar, who claimed the time off didn’t affect him adversely. “I took those days to work hard on things that weren’t feeling good the last couple weeks.”

The Rangers have won seven of their past eight games since a June 16 meeting with manager Ron Washington after a sixth straight loss, and their rotation has a 3.30 ERA in that span. The starters have four wins in the past seven games after a club-record drought of 17 games without a victory.

The victory gave the Rangers a half-game lead in the American League West over idle Oakland.

“We’ve played great baseball,” said Murphy, who also robbed Suzuki of a hit with a diving catch in the sixth. “We’re right where we need to be right now. I think altogether, collectively, we’ve put our foot down, and the results have shown.”

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