Holland shows poise in strong start vs. Mariners

Holland shows poise in strong start vs. Mariners

Holland shows poise in strong start vs. Mariners
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers head out on their first three-city road trip with an important advantage at their disposal.

Their starting rotation.

Left-hander Derek Holland was the latest in the five-man rotation to give the Rangers a consistent start, going 7 1/3 innings and not walking anyone in a 5-3 victory over the Mariners on Thursday afternoon.

Holland threw 115 pitches, 79 of them for strikes as he commanded the zone. He got ahead of hitters, starting 16 of 28 Mariners with strike one. He allowed five hits and had eight strikeouts.

The Rangers' starters now have a 2.42 ERA through seven games, second best in the American League. They have helped their team get off to a 5-2 start with both losses coming in the ninth inning with closer Joe Nathan in the game.

"Every one of our starters has kept us in the game so far," manager Ron Washington said. "They can't control Ws. Offense controls Ws." The Rangers got enough offense from the top of the lineup, as Michael Young had four RBIs after being moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup with shortstop Elvis Andrus getting the day off. And leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler scored three more runs, giving him nine for the season to rank him among the American League leaders.

Young had three different run-producing hits. The Rangers scored in the first inning for the second consecutive game as Kinsler led off with a single, stole second base and scored on Young's single.

Twice Young gave the Rangers a three-run cushion, first in the fifth with a two-out two-run home run for a 3-0 lead, and again in the seventh with a two-out single. Kinsler was on in front of him both times.

"You always feed off the guys in front of you," said Young, who has seven RBIs in seven games. "Ian is getting on base a lot."

The run production was plenty for Holland, who didn't have any walks after three in his first start, a 4-3 loss to the White Sox on Saturday. All of his walks in his opening start helped keep an inning alive for the White Sox.

Holland pitched in a tight game Thursday, and never let the game speed up for him, even in the seventh inning when Mariners second baseman Kyle Seager hit a home run to cut the Rangers lead to 3-2. Holland bounced back to strike out Miguel Olivo looking and get Casper Wells to fly out to right field.

Holland, who had a huge postseason in 2011, continues to show that he is maturing. He had a good fastball and changeup against the Mariners.

"He's doing a better job of slowing down the game," Washington said. "He still can get better. He's maturing."

Getting ahead in the count was the key. Even when Holland got to a 3-2 count, he was able to throw a strike and force the Mariners to put the ball in play. It's something that pitching coach Mike Maddux has stressed coming out of spring training.

"He's told us to go out there and be consistent," Holland said. "Just be yourself. And throw strikes.

"It's a big thing Maddux preaches to us," he said. "Strike one makes it a lot harder on teams."

The Rangers now head out on a nine-game road trip with three this weekend in Minnesota, two in Boston and then four at Detroit. It was the Tigers who the Rangers beat in the 2011 ALCS.

The Rangers may take a better rotation into that important early season series. A young, talented starting staff trying to prove itself among the elite in the AL.

"They're not under the radar," Young said. "They're just all pretty inexperienced. This could be their coming out party. They are talented and they work hard."

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.