Derek Holland’s entrance music Sunday was the remake of Wild Thing, the song playing when Rick Vaughn takes the mound in the one-game playoff at the end of the film Major League.
With the zigzags in his hair and an icon of the fictional religious chief Jobu in his locker, Holland and the Texas Rangers have taken on the persona of Major League movie star Charlie Sheen.
They’re #winning. A lot.
Holland stuck an exclamation point on the end of what could be a season-changing stretch for the Rangers. He struck out 11 and scattered three hits in his eighth career shutout, a 6-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
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The win was the Rangers’ fourth in a row and completed a sweep of the Orioles in a three-game series between wild-card hopefuls. The Rangers hold the second wild card by 1 1/2 games and are only three games behind division-leading Houston.
“The main thing was just trying to keep the defense on their toes,” Holland said. “The execution was big. I executed all my pitches, the defense was making some outstanding plays for me, and the offense put up the runs.”
The Rangers finished a 16-game stretch with a 12-4 record. Twelve of the games were played at Globe Life Park, where the Rangers went 9-3 to push their home record to .500 (32-32) for the first time since April 11 at 1-1.
They opened the stretch at 56-57, 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card, and finished it a season-best seven games over .500 at 68-61 and with a four-game surge into a playoff position.
“A really good stretch,” manager Jeff Banister said. “You’ve got to play well at home. We’ve gotten ourselves now into a position where we feel like this is our house and have a home-field advantage while we’re here. It feels comfortable; it feels good.”
Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Hanser Alberto and Delino DeShields drove in runs for the Rangers, who staked Holland to a 2-0 lead after one inning and added to it in the third, sixth and eighth.
But Holland would have been just fine with the Beltre sacrifice fly that plated the game’s first run.
Working quickly and efficiently in the same mold of Friday and Saturday starters Cole Hamels and Martin Perez, Holland worked both sides of the plate and was also effective changing batters’ eye levels.
He had six strikeouts by the fourth inning, and when he got Jonathan Schoop swinging to end the seventh, he had struck out every Baltimore batter once.
Holland (2-1) was allowed to go out for the ninth inning at 101 pitches despite making only his third start since recovering from a shoulder injury that cost him four months. Steve Pearce lined out to a well-positioned Alberto at second base, and Adam Jones was victimized for Holland’s 10th strikeout.
Chris Davis fell behind 0-2 in the count but was still fouling off pitches at 3-2. Holland threw a slider, Davis missed it by a foot and his bat went sailing toward first base.
The crowd wasn’t sure what had happened, but catcher Chris Gimenez was pumping his fist with the ball safely in his glove after Holland’s 11th strikeout of what likely would have been his final batter at 116 pitches.
“That was kind of anticlimatic,” Holland said. “Nobody knew what was going on, but I was back there pumping my fist.”
Holland retired the final 14 batters, and the 11 strikeouts were the most by a Rangers pitchers this season. The shutout was the first of Holland’s career without a walk.
That’s not at all like Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn. But like Charlie Sheen, Holland and the Rangers keep on #winning.
“He was terrific. Terrific,” Beltre said. “He was moving the ball in and out. His breaking ball was magnificent. We all know what kind of pitcher he is.
“It’s been sad and disappointing that he’s been hurt the last couple of years. We all know how much he loves to be out there. It’s nice to have him back healthy and doing what he did today.”
Give ’em the heater, Derek
Derek Holland, working his way back from a shoulder injury suffered in his first start of the season, pitched a gem Sunday. A look at the numbers in his first two outings since coming off the disabled list and in Sunday’s shutout: