ARLINGTON -- The Texas Rangers leaned on some timely hitting in their 8-3 win against the cross-state rival Houston Astros on Monday.
In the first three innings the Rangers piled up seven runs, which is not a very rare occurrence for the high-octane Rangers attack. What was rare about Monday's game was that through those three innings, they did not hit a single home run.
Instead, it was a display in timely hitting, as the Rangers did not necessarily have a breakout offensive game -- amassing 12 hits -- but they got almost every hit they needed in order to score runs.
"That's what you have to do sometimes," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Everybody knows we're capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but it makes us a little tougher when we can string hits together like that."
With runners in scoring position, the Rangers went 5-for-12 with a double and a triple, knocking in seven of their eight runs, including going 3-for-6 in the first three innings with two outs.
"If you can get knocks with two outs, that's a big thing," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "If you have less than two outs, you can find a way to do it different ways. Ground balls, fly balls, they all score, but you've got to have big clutch hits with two outs."
The Rangers put the game away in the second inning when they refused to let the inning end. With two outs, Craig Gentry stole second and third base during Elvis Andrus' walk. A wild pitch later, Josh Hamilton cashed in both runners with a triple to deep left-center field.
"The one Hamilton hit was up a little bit," Astros starter J.A. Happ said. "I didn't think he hit it that good, but he's a strong guy. And the other one Young hit [for an RBI double in the first] wasn't that bad of a pitch, but it fell in where we weren't. He put it in a good spot."
Adrian Beltre scored Hamilton with an RBI single of his own. Just like that, the Rangers had managed to take a non-threatening runner-on-first-with-two-outs situation and squeeze three runs out of it without the aid of a home run.
"We got pitches to hit, and we took advantage of it," Washington said. "We put some runs on the board."
With Derek Holland putting together his best home start of the season, that was more than enough for the Rangers to take the first game of the Lone Star Series.
Holland gave up three runs on six hits and three walks in 7 1/3 innings, bouncing back from a disastrous six-run, five-inning outing in New York against the Yankees.
"To me there really wasn't that much of a difference," Holland said. "I just executed a little bit better, and my defense made plays for me. The offense did what they always do, but for me I think it was just better execution."
Another positive sign was that he was able to bounce back from a fourth-inning rally to hold the Astros scoreless for the next three innings -- the type of comeback that has eluded him in the past.
"He's getting better; he's got a long ways to go, but he's getting better," Washington said. "That is a sign of maturity."
The fourth inning has given Holland trouble -- the 16 runs he has given up in that inning are by far the most he's surrendered in a single inning throughout the course of the season.
"I try not to think about it," Holland said. "The main thing is to continue to go after hitters and not think about that big inning."
Gentry continued to take advantage of recent playing time, going 3-for-4 with three steals. The three steals tied Andrus for the season high for a Rangers player.
"He's doing a great job, he's loosening up and realizing that he has talents to offer," Washington said of Gentry. "I'm happy for him. He's finally loosening up on the basepaths and showing them what he can do."
The three hits also set Gentry's career high. Both of his multihit games have come in his last four starts.
Gentry echoed that the increased playing time has led to his recent uptick in performance.
"Getting out there and having some success and getting comfortable is big," Gentry said. "Having confidence up here to go out there and playing my game."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.