CLEVELAND -- When it was over and Derek Holland had pitched his second career shutout, he saw family and friends, church members and former teachers all cheering from behind the Rangers' dugout."I didn't hear them during the game because I'm locked in, but after the game there they were ... all screaming at me," said Holland after pitching the Rangers to a 4-0 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field on Saturday night.
Holland only left 10 tickets for family on a warm humid night. But many more made the two hour, 45-minute trek from Holland's hometown of Newark, Ohio, to witness one of his finest moments in the Major Leagues.They saw Holland limit his pitches and walks, they saw him stay away from big innings by getting that elusive third out before opposing rallies got out of hand, and they saw him pitch his first shutout since Aug. 9, 2009, against the Angels. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz provided the winning margin with a pair of two-run home runs and the Rangers have now won 10 of their past 13 games to open up a 2 1/2-game lead in the American League West. "It's definitely a great feeling," Holland said. "It's comparable to the shutout I threw against the Angels in my rookie season but this is the best feeling I've ever had in my career. This was in front of my whole family, not just a few family members." Holland was planning to meet with them after the game but wasn't sure where. He stood in front of his locker 20 minutes after the game with cellphone in hand and had 56 text messages waiting for him. "And climbing," Holland said. Across the Rangers clubhouse, catcher Yorvit Torrealba was worn out, sitting in a leather chair with his feet up and beverage in hand. "I'm dead tired," he said closing his eyes. "It was hot out there tonight ... you better believe it." But he warmed up to the subject of his starting pitcher rather quickly. "He was really aggressive and attacked hitters," Torrealba said. "His fastball was unbelievable, he was throwing it on both sides of the plate. His offspeed pitches were good but it was his fastball that made them good." Holland allowed five hits, one walk and five strikeouts. He had been averaging 17.1 pitches per inning coming into the game, the third highest in the league. But he got this one done in a tidy 112 pitches or 12.4 per inning. "We hit a few balls hard, but right at people," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That was the story. Their kid was very good. Holland threw the ball very well. A lefty in the mid-90s with a very good mix of pitches. He just flat-out shut us down. There's only so much you can do right now. Our lineup right now is scuffling." The Indians were also 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and they were 1-for-10 batting with two outs. Holland entered the game having allowed opponents to hit .356 with two outs, the second highest by a starter in the Majors. "We just kept telling him the game is three outs, not two and how great he would be if he could get that third out," manager Ron Washington said. Message received. "He was locked in," Torrealba said. "He looked like a different Holland than in the past. He was more focused, you could feel him say, 'I need to focus, I need to finish this inning.' It wasn't like he wasn't focused before, but he really was tonight." The big inning was the sixth. Holland had a 2-0 lead but gave up a walk and a single with one out. Then, with two outs, Adrian Beltre fumbled a grounder for an error, loading the bases for Indians cleanup hitter Carlos Santana. Santana worked the count full, then Holland got him to hit a changeup on the ground right at Beltre to end the inning. "He did a great job picking up Beltre right there ... that saved the game," Washington said. "More than anything, I was just trying to execute my pitches, stay on Torrealba and keep my focus," Holland said. "Stay with it, go right after them and don't give in." Rangers starters are now 11-2 with a 2.47 ERA in their last 23 games. That stretch includes 19 games in which the starter went at least six innings. Also, 17 of the 19 were official "quality starts" and three were shutouts, including one each by Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando. The Rangers are 15-8 in that stretch. "That really helps us relax and not put pressure on ourselves to do too much," Hamilton said. "Anytime there's not pressure on us offensively, it makes us better. Some guys are cool, some guys are warm and some guys are swinging the bats well. Hopefully, we can get it all together as a team."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.