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Matthew Leach

When clicking, bats mask Texas' flaws

Leach: Bats mask Rangers' pitching flaws

When clicking, bats mask Texas' flaws
NEW YORK -- The Rangers spent their first three days in the Bronx seeing some of their flaws get exposed. They spent Thursday afternoon hitting at such a clip that none of their flaws mattered. Texas hung 16 hits on a string of Yankees pitchers as it got out of town with a much-needed 10-6 win.

It was a perfect encapsulation of a team that may be the best in baseball but also has plenty of questions as October inches ever closer. It's unclear how the Rangers would arrange a postseason starting rotation. Their bullpen has been inconsistent despite having some very big arms, and they've had difficulty staying healthy.

But that lineup ... oh, that lineup. A team that can put Mitch Moreland in the seventh spot and No. 3 prospect Mike Olt ninth can get away with a whole lot of issues elsewhere on the roster. The Rangers lead the Majors in runs, and it's not just because of their ballpark.

All was far from perfect on Thursday. Enigmatic starter Derek Holland was both superb and shaky. The bullpen had a couple of scary moments. The defense, like Holland, interspersed brilliance with a couple of follies.

And still, the Rangers won going away. They kept at it, tacking on runs in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth to cement the win.

"We know what we're capable of," said outfielder David Murphy, who was 3-for-5. "It shows that we're smart, because we know what they're capable of over there, too. They came back once, and we didn't want to let them do it again."

Holland showed, in the space of two hours, both sides of why he may be the team's biggest X-factor. He allowed one baserunner through five innings, recalling the form that allowed him to pitch an American League-leading four shutouts last year. Following his outstanding performance in his previous start, Holland looked like he might be getting fully locked in at just the right time.

Then everything unraveled on Holland in the sixth, with five hits capped by an Andruw Jones home run on a sloppy first-pitch slider. Holland can't afford many moments like that against teams like this, but he and manager Ron Washington were both pleased overall.

"I feel like everything is really up on a high right now," Holland said. "I was making all my pitches. ... I thought I really did a good job of commanding the zone. One pitch was left right there. One through nine, it's a solid lineup, so obviously, they're going to take care of the mistakes."

The left-hander who was so brilliant in last year's World Series has about nine more starts to keep getting sharper, and he needs to. Without Holland at his best, Washington's rotation choices for a postseason series dwindle. Matt Harrison has been excellent, but after that, it's a bit of a mess.

Ryan Dempster has been hammered in the AL. Yu Darvish has a 5.68 ERA since mid-May and leads the AL in walks. Scott Feldman is useful but not someone you want matching up with another team's No. 1 or 2 starter in October. Roy Oswalt has been bumped to the bullpen after an uninspiring stint as a starter.

That leaves the Rangers in dire need of the 2011-vintage Holland. He's shown flashes of it, overwhelming the Tigers his last time out and breezing through five innings on Thursday. It's sustaining the success that has been a problem.

But Thursday showed the Rangers' Plan B, and it's not a bad one at all. Even on a day when quite a few things weren't perfect, it didn't matter. Just hit, baby, and you'll win a lot of games.

"I don't know about putting up 10 runs every night, but it's certainly the offense I expect to see most nights putting balls in play and finding holes and getting base hits," Washington said. "But you don't get the opportunity to put up 10 runs that often."

Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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