Teams that are struggling with runners in scoring position often take comfort in the fact that they are at least getting runners on base and that eventually one of their professional hitters will get the big hit.
That’s what the Texas Rangers had to be thinking Saturday night after each Jered Weaver escape act. Throwing anywhere from 64 to 84 mph, Weaver kept wiggling out of threats as if he were throwing 104.
In six innings, the Rangers got Weaver only once in seven tries with a runner at second or third, and they were just 1 for 8 overall. On Friday, the Rangers had only one hit in nine tries. After the first five games of this road trip, they are 3 for 41.
Fortunately, the Rangers had Derek Holland on the mound to cover up the offense’s blemishes and got a break at the plate in the eighth inning of a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
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“When you go up against a guy like him, you’ve got to match him pitch for pitch,” Holland said. “Just execution. I’ve continued to work the zone in and out, up and down, and tried to keep the hitters off balance. Everything feels good.”
The win moved the Rangers back to within two games of Houston in the American League West and kept them 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota, which beat the Astros, for the second wild card.
Rougned Odor broke a 1-1 tie that had stood since the first inning with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Mitch Moreland started the rally with a one-out single, and pinch-runner Ryan Strausborger went to third on a single by Elvis Andrus that Angels second baseman and TCU product Taylor Featherston couldn’t flag down.
Strausborger scored easily on Odor’s fly ball to center field.
Holland (3-1) returned for the eighth at 103 pitches after throwing 116 on Aug. 30 in a three-hitter against Baltimore. But he needed only 10 pitches in a 1-2-3 inning that put a strong cap on his solid night.
“If a guy would have gotten on, that probably would have been it for me,” Holland said.
The left-hander retired the final nine batters he faced and never gave in after the Angels used a Mike Trout triple and a bobbled C.J. Cron tapper to the mound to tie the score in the first.
Holland thought he could have possibly turned a double play, “if I wasn’t being Pele out there,” he said.
Holland retired 12 of the next 13 batters and 14 of the next 16. He pitched around a Kole Calhoun single to start the sixth by striking out Trout, getting Albert Pujols on a fly ball to center and getting Cron on a fielder’s choice.
Holland threw the ball well. We’ve seen him before, and his stuff was really crisp tonight.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia
Holland allowed three hits and two walks and struck out five. Shawn Tolleson went through Trout, Pujols and Cron in the ninth for his 29th save.
“Holland threw the ball well,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ve seen him before, and his stuff was really crisp tonight. We tied the game in the first. Outside of that, not that many good looks at him.”
The Rangers scored a run four batters into the game when Adrian Beltre drove home Shin-Soo Choo from second base with a single to center. A walk to Moreland loaded the bases with one out, but Andrus’ fly ball to left was too shallow for Prince Fielder to tag, and Odor flied out to center to end the threat.
Moreland singled and Andrus doubled to start the fourth but got no further as the Rangers flailed away in three chances.
Choo was stranded at second with two outs in the fifth after Moreland bounced out.
“It’s not frustrating, but it’s disappointing,” Andrus said. “That’s going to happen. Every team wishes they can hit every time with me on. We know what we need to do. I’m just happy we got the win.”
It helped that they had Holland keeping them in the game.
“We feel like we’re going to get our opportunity when a pitcher can go out and keep putting up zeroes,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We feel like we’ve got an offense that can score. You tip your hat to Weaver for what he was able to do tonight. But for our guys to chip away … some times just enough is good enough.”