ARLINGTON -- With 118 pitches thrown, Derek Holland saw Ron Washington coming toward him. This usually spelled the end of the night for pitchers, but Holland had one tactic to persuade his manager to let him finish the game. "It was just me begging," Holland said. "I was running out of gas. I support him either way. He's trying to keep me healthy." Washington signaled to the bullpen, ending an amazing night for his young left-hander. Holland left to a standing ovation, having thrown 8 2/3 innings of two-hit ball against the Mariners in the Rangers' 7-1 victory on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Washington told Holland to listen to the crowd as he walked off the mound. "Hearing the crowd was an awesome feeling," Holland said. "I had chills down my spine." The Rangers moved to three games behind the Angels in the American League West and 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race. Holland threw 4 2/3 perfect innings before allowing a broken-bat single to Jack Hannahan up the middle. Holland retired the next 10 hitters after that. On the night, he retired 26 of 29 batters he faced, allowing just the two hits and one walk. "I think we got a real good look at Derek Holland, as his future gets better," Washington said. "He used all his pitches. When you have his fastball and secondary pitches like that, it's hard to sit on pitches." Holland struck out 10 hitters, a career high. That's the highest single-game total for a rookie left-hander in club history and the most since ace Kevin Millwood struck out 10 on Sept. 3, 2006. Holland became the first Rangers left-hander with 10 strikeouts since Matt Perisho struck out 12 on Oct. 3, 1999. Washington credited Jarrod Saltalamacchia for calling a good game. "We had talked about going out there and not going with fastballs," Saltalamacchia said. "We went with off-speed early. He did a great job tonight. I don't think anyone was comfortable tonight in the box." That's not hyperbole. "We couldn't be patient the way we'd like to be," said Mariners catcher Rob Johnson. "He was locating his sinker really well. He was throwing it in a good spot against right-handed hitters. I think he had a real good feel for the ball and was forcing us to be aggressive." Saltalamacchia sat with his pitcher between innings, something the two hadn't consistently done before, and helped Holland maintain his focus, not letting him get too antsy or dwell on anything. That definitely helped. He became the first Rangers starter to go 8 2/3 innings while allowing two or fewer hits in seven years. "We had great offense with Hank [Blalock] getting us started," Holland said. "They started it off for me in the second." Blalock homered to deep right field with one out in the second inning to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It was his 20th home run of the season, the first time he reached 20 home runs since 2005. Blalock has four 20-homer seasons, which ties him for sixth-most in club history. That was just the first shot on a night where the Rangers would hit the ball with power. Saltalamacchia homered three batters later to push the Rangers lead to 3-0. Michael Young added two home runs of his own, continuing a hot stretch of hitting. Over his past six games, he's hitting .609 (14-for-23) with four homers and nine RBIs. He pushed the Rangers' lead to 5-0 with a home run in the fifth inning. It was Young's first multi-homer game since April 11, 2007. Marlon Byrd gave the Rangers their final two runs with a two-run shot in the seventh. Nelson Cruz and Andruw Jones barely missed homers, launching deep balls to the warning track. The Rangers hit five home runs twice previously this season -- June 30 at home against the Angels and July 8 on the road against the Angels.
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.