As the outs piled up, the little voice in Derek Holland’s head kept getting louder.
”You can execute this pitch! You can throw it!” the Texas left-hander told himself, over and over. ”You’re going to make this pitch!”
He certainly did.
Holland tamed a team that often tagged him, tossing a two-hitter as the Rangers finished up an impressive road trip by beating the New York Yankees 2-0 Thursday.
How special was this performance? Not since Seattle’s Matt Young in 1983 had a visiting lefty blanked the Yankees on two or fewer hits.
”You think positive thoughts,” Holland said. ”You can’t let any negativity get in there.”
”I haven’t had great success against these guys,” he said. ”They’ve destroyed me.”
Holland began the game at 0-5 with an 8.85 ERA against the Yankees in regular-season play. He had shown a glimmer of success, however, going 1-0 and throwing 5 2-3 shutout innings against them in the 2010 AL championship series.
Holland (6-4) threw his sixth career shutout – it was the lowest-hit shutout by a visiting Rangers pitcher against the Yankees since the Texas franchise moved from Washington for the 1972 season.
”Tremendous,” Texas manager Ron Washington praised.
Before the game, Washington said he hoped Holland could pitch a complete game and give his relievers a rest. After Holland did exactly that while permitting only a pair of singles, Washington added: ”I just wish I had that kind of magic in the Powerball.”
Jurickson Profar homered and scored twice, while fellow rookie Engel Beltre got the first two hits of his big league career. Texas went home leading the AL West after going 5-1 on its swing to St. Louis and Yankee Stadium.
Holland did more than give the bullpen a break. He also spared the Rangers a possible inconvenient return to the Bronx – a huge rainstorm had been due later in the afternoon, and Texas isn’t scheduled to play in New York again this season.
The 26-year-old Holland struck out struck seven, walked two and didn’t give up a hit after the third inning. His 92-pitch performance produced his first win in five starts.
A leadoff single by Ichiro Suzuki in the first and a two-out single by Austin Romine in the third were the lone hits off Holland. New York managed a mere one runner after a leadoff walk in the fourth.
The Yankees went 4-5 on their homestand against the Dodgers, Tampa Bay and Texas.
”Struggling right now. We talked about that a little bit,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees hit a few flyballs that were caught on the warning track, and left fielder David Murphy contributed a sliding grab. Backup catcher Geovany Soto helped, too, when Robinson Cano tried to advance on a ball in the dirt in the seventh and was thrown out at second base.
Otherwise, it was all Holland.
”I thought his fastball and slider were pretty effective today. He was ahead of our guys all day and seemed to pound the strike zone,” Girardi said.
Phil Hughes (3-7) pitched well, yet has won once in his last eight starts. He allowed five hits in eight innings after getting seven days’ rest.
The 20-year-old Profar, rated among the top prospects in baseball, led off the fifth with his third home run of the season.
Texas also scored following an unusual play in the third. David Murphy opened with a single and took off a full-count pitch as Profar took a checked-swing. Romine, the catcher, made a strong throw to second, Murphy was tagged and wandered off the bag, thinking he was out.
Plate umpire Gerry Davis checked with third base ump Mark Carlson, who ruled that Profar held up his swing and that it was ball four. Murphy was entitled to second on the walk, but was out because he walked off the bag on his own and was tagged again.
Beltre followed with a perfect hit-and-single, a day after being caught stealing as a pinch-runner in his major league debut. Ian Kinsler’s sacrifice fly made it 1-0.
Beltre later added an infield hit, to the delight of many family members in attendance.
”That day means a lot to me,” he said.
NOTES: The only other Texas lefty with a shutout against the Yankees was Jon Matlack in 1981. … The Rangers have not scored in the first inning for 19 straight games. … Rangers RHP Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery) is moving up to Triple-A Round Rock on his rehab assignment and is set to pitch on Friday. … Texas RHP Alexi Ogando (shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen session Friday. … RHP David Phelps (5-4. 4.01) starts for Yankees on Friday night at Baltimore. … Texas rookie LHP Martin Perez (1-1, 3.65) starts at home on Friday night against Cincinnati RHP Johnny Cueto (4-1, 3.21).