ARLINGTON -- They put 48,201 people in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for an August game against the Boston Red Sox. These are the type of games and the kind of nights the Rangers are hoping their young players will experience, get accustomed to and ultimately thrive in over the weeks, months and years to come. On Saturday night, they did just that. In that cauldron of playoff-atmosphere baseball, five rookies showed their mettle for the Rangers in carrying them to a 7-2 victory over the Red Sox.
Starter Derek Holland, winning for the third time in four starts, and reliever Neftali Feliz, earning his first Major League save, soared on the mound, while Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus each had a night to remember, both at the plate and on the bases. They were the reasons why the Rangers set a new club record with eight stolen bases. Then there was catcher Taylor Teagarden, who went 0-for-4 at the plate but guided his young pitchers to their sixth win in his last eight starts behind the plate. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia facing possible season-ending surgery on his shoulder because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, the pitching staff is now in his young hands. "We have a lot of confident rookies here," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "We've made a home in the clubhouse for them, and they've all shown it on the field. The play the game like it is supposed to be played. You have to give the guys in our Minor League system credit for having them ready to play in a big game like this." This one was big because it moved the Rangers back to within a half-game of the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card race. "The young guys really stepped up tonight," third baseman Michael Young said. "It's always good when guys step up, young or old. They're a good team, so it's great to have anybody step up to the challenge. Having a packed house ... it has been awesome. Tonight, it was a lot of fun. This is what I imagine the playoffs are like." If this truly is the Rangers' future, it could be something to behold. "This says something about the whole organization," Washington said. "We're not afraid to bring young kids up and let them play. The veterans have set a good clubhouse and the young kids have fallen right behind them." The night ended on a scary note. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, who had a home run in his first at-bat, was drilled in the shoulder by Fernando Cabrera's eighth-inning fastball. The crowd booed lustily and Kinsler was initially upset, but the Red Sox apologized and the Rangers didn't think it was intentional. "It was a fastball inside that got away from him," Young said. "It wasn't intentional." This is the second big game Holland has pitched for the Rangers. On Sunday, he shutout the Angels; on Saturday night, he held the Red Sox to two runs on seven hits, two walks and three strikeouts. He allowed a pair of home runs to Jason Bay and Victor Martinez, but they were both solo shots, as the Red Sox were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. "I didn't let too much get to me," Holland said. "It was a big game. ... We're chasing them; we're chasing the Angels. I just wanted to stay focused and attack the zone. I just went out there with everything I had and did everything I could to battle." Holland left with one on and two out in the seventh. Darren O'Day took over and struck out Dustin Pedroia. The out was significant. It was the only one the Rangers notched without a rookie on the mound. Feliz, with closer Frank Francisco unavailable for the night, took over in the eighth with a 5-2 lead. He gave up a long single to Martinez to lead off the inning before retiring six straight hitters over two innings, three by strikeout. It was his first appearance at the Ballpark, and he became the youngest pitcher in Rangers history to record a save. He has now struck out 16 of 29 batters over his first five Major League appearances. "He's going to be good," Andrus said. "He's got one of the nastiest arms I've ever seen. You put the ball at the knees at 100 miles per hour, it's hard to hit." With Teagarden guiding them, Holland and Feliz handled the pitching. Much of the offense was provided by two guys who have the potential to give the Rangers a huge injection of badly needed speed. Borbon was 4-for-5 with two runs scored, two RBIs and four stolen bases in the leadoff spot. On the bottom side of the order, Andrus was 3-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and three stolen bases. "I define that as a special night," Borbon said. "It feels great to be able to go out there and get things going for us." Kinsler, who hit his 24th home run of the season in his first at-bat, also had a stolen base, as the Rangers broke the club record set back in 1978. "That's what [Borbon and I] do," Andrus said. "We get on base, we walk and we get base hits. The goal is to get on base and make things happen. Nights like tonight are special." The Rangers expect many more.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.