ARLINGTON -- Rangers reliever Darren Oliver stood at his locker with an ice pack on his arm and cell phone in hand. He was checking his text messages. "My son had a baseball game," Oliver explained. "Nine years old. Kid pitch ... they had a rain delay. They're called the Dodgers ... they won." Than means Brock and Darren Oliver can celebrate together because dad had a good night, too. A big night.
Darren Oliver pitched only two innings and threw only 15 pitches, but they were huge as the Rangers held off the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3, at Rangers Ballpark on Monday. "He came in and saved the day right there," Rangers manager Ron Washington said after his team snapped a three-game losing streak while beating the defending American League West champions in their first meeting this season. "It was a big win, yeah," third baseman Michael Young said. "It had nothing to do with a losing streak or who we're playing, it's just nice to come back and have a well-played game. We needed that." Derek Holland, who had a no-hitter through four innings, pitched 5 1/3 innings to get the victory and Neftali Feliz retired the side in order in the ninth to get his 10th save. But it was Dustin Nippert who bailed Holland out of a sixth-inning jam to keep the Rangers in front and Oliver zipped through the best of the Angels' order in the seventh and eighth. "Darren shut the door," Holland said. "That was an outstanding job by the bullpen." Holland, who has now won his first two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City, was outstanding through four innings. The Rangers gave him a four-run lead in the third inning. One batter walked and another reached on an error as he pounded the Angels with great command on his fastball. Then Juan Rivera reached on a one-out infield hit in the fifth and Mike Napoli followed with a two-run home run to cut the Rangers lead to 4-2. "I was using my fastball a lot more tonight early in the game, and after four innings, I started getting away from my fastball," Holland said. "I started throwing my offspeed stuff more rather than staying with the game plan. I got overwhelmed with the way the game was going and let it get away with me." Holland, after giving up a couple of hits to Brandon Wood and Reggie Willits, was able to escape more damage in the fifth when Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick both popped out. But Torii Hunter made it a one-run game with a home run to lead off the sixth. "Derek was solid until the fifth or sixth, but I thought he handled himself very well," Washington said. "I saw a guy out there with a lot of confidence." Holland was gone after he walked Kendry Morales and Hideki Matsui popped out. Nippert took over, walking Rivera before striking out Napoli and getting Woods on a grounder to short. Then came Oliver, and he brought the Angels' rally to a screeching halt by almost effortlessly recording six straight outs. Oliver, a left-handed pitcher, faced three switch-hitters, two right-handed hitters and one lefty. It didn't matter. He needed just 15 pitches to record six outs. "Wow ... he has had an incredible season," Young said. "To come into that game, throwing an incredible 15 pitches, it was just incredible. Six guys, six outs and a chance to get Neftali. The seventh, eighth, ninth innings, that was the game right there." Oliver, who lowered his ERA to 1.74, was pitching against his former teammates. He was a member of the Angels' bullpen for the past three seasons before signing with the Rangers in the offseason. "It's hard to look at those guys in the face when I'm pitching," Oliver said. "I might start laughing. I know those guys too well. I know them pretty good, they know me pretty good. It's fun. "This is a big win. We had a lot of energy tonight. It was a whole lot of fun and it's always good to get that first victory in a series like this." He and Brock had much to celebrate on Monday night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.