ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, after finding out on Sunday that Colby Lewis was out for the season with a torn flexor tendon, have spent the week talking with other clubs about starting pitching.They were looking hard at Cole Hamels until he signed a contract extension with the Phillies. Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke is now at the top of the list, with Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson's name being bantered about. The Rangers are clearly exploring every opportunity to improve their rotation. But while their front office was busy doing that, the Rangers were getting excellent starting pitching in taking two of three from the Red Sox. Derek Holland followed the work of Scott Feldman and Martin Perez by holding the Red Sox to three runs in 7 2/3 innings as the Rangers held on for a 5-3 victory at the Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday night. The Red Sox entered the series leading the league in runs scored, but Rangers starters combined for a 2.13 ERA during the three games. "They did a great job," first baseman Michael Young said. "Boston has a lot of great veteran hitters who take a lot of pitches and work a pitcher. Our guys did a great job. They are the reason why we were able to take two of three." The Rangers did so even though the two All-Stars in their rotation, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison, did not pitch in the series. Neither did Roy Oswalt, who was skipped because of tightness in his lower back. All three are lined up to face the White Sox this weekend at the Ballpark. They will have a tough act to follow. Feldman, Perez and Holland combined to pitch 20 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on 17 hits and three walks while striking out 13. "It was pretty good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They gave us what we needed and got us deep into the game. Holland gave us exactly what we needed. He gave up a couple of home runs but he didn't let that affect him. He stayed after it." Holland gave up six runs in 6 2/3 innings in his previous start against the Angels, but had better command of his fastball on Wednesday night, and also had an effective changeup. He called it one his best outings of the season. "I wanted to go out there and keep my pitch count," Holland said. "I felt like I was going right after them. I feel really good. I went out there and gave my team a chance to win. I used all of my pitches and I thought everything was good. As the game progressed, my changeup got kind of firm, so I backed off that. But everything else was good. I made some mistakes and they made me pay for that, but my teammates came back and got us a win." Said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia: "He pitched great. He's got great stuff. He came at us throwing strikes, attacking the zone. He did a great job." Holland made a couple of mistakes early. He walked Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the first, and he ended up scoring. A fourth-inning home run by Will Middlebrooks made it 2-0, but the Rangers, after some early offensive frustration, struck back for three runs in the bottom of the inning. Young got the Rangers going with a double to right. David Murphy brought him home with a one-out double, and Yorvit Torrealba's single put runners at the corners. That brought up Craig Gentry, who dropped a squeeze bunt on a 1-0 pitch that brought home Murphy with the tying run. Torrealba went to second on the play and scored when Ian Kinsler's high pop dropped into shallow right field for a hit. Pedroia tied it in the sixth with a home run, but the Rangers pulled ahead in the bottom of the seventh. Elvis Andrus reached on a hit-by-pitch, went to third on Adrian Beltre's two-out hit-and-run single to right and scored on a wild pitch. "We executed tonight," Washington said. "We had good execution tonight and we put a little pressure on their defense." Nelson Cruz added an eighth-inning home run, and the Rangers remain five games ahead of the Athletics and Angels in the American League West. They have three with the White Sox and four with the Angels left on this homestand. "As tough a stretch as we're going through, we're playing good teams," said closer Joe Nathan after pitching the ninth for his 20th save. "This is a battle. This goes back to the beginning of the second half. Seattle plays us so tough, Oakland, you see what they're doing right now, so obviously they're the best team in baseball right now. We had to play them. Then, we headed to Anaheim, which is never an easy place. "Then we come back and play a good Boston team, a very good Chicago team, and back to Anaheim again. It's a tough stretch, and we're just going to keep grinding and try to keep winning series. It's a grind for us, but we're still in front. We just have to keep going out and playing consistent baseball." Getting good starting pitching is crucial. The Rangers had that against the Red Sox, even without their All-Stars on the mound. And they still haven't made a trade ... yet.
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.