ARLINGTON, Texas – Derek Holland turned in one of the Rangers’ best individual pitching performances on Friday, but it was actually a team effort.
Holland credited catcher A.J. Pierzynski, his defense and even the success of young starters like Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch for his eight shutout innings against the Red Sox.
Holland gave up six hits and a walk in the 7-0 win, but continued to attack hitters and wound up with nine strikeouts. He said his catcher kept him focused.
“A.J.’s been great back there for me, pushing me,” Holland said. “I feel like we’ve really been on the same page. I know I say that about all my catchers every time, but we’ve got a great relationship.”
Every time the Red Sox had an opportunity to get something started at the plate, Holland came back strong.
A leadoff hit by David Ortiz in the second was followed by back-to-back strikeouts and a fly ball out.
Shane Victorino led off the fourth with a hit, but Holland struck out the next batter, Dustin Pedroia, and then got Ortiz to ground into a double play.
In the sixth, the Red Sox put together back-to-back hits with one out, but Holland got Victorino to pop up and Pedroia to ground out and end the rally.
Maintaining focus and intensity has long been a challenge for Holland, but not as much this season with the addition of the veteran Pierzynski.
“Each guy [catcher] has a different style,” Holland said. “Geo keeps me loose. It’s just hard to explain, but I’ve really got to give a lot of credit to him. He keeps me locked in, with the [pitch] sequences. We hardly shake each other off. It’s good.”
It was also good that Holland followed two impressive, although hard-luck, performances, but young starters Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm.
While the 26-year-old Holland is just a couple of years older than Tepesch and Grimm, he’s one of the wise, old veterans of the staff in his fifth major league season.
“I spend a lot of time talking with Grimm. I didn’t want him to take the same path as me,” said Holland, who was 8-13 with a 6.12 ERA as a 22-year-old rookie. “Tepesch, I don’t want to mess with him. I don’t really want to say too much. He’s doing a great job. Grimm’s been doing a great job. Every guy’s been doing great, I’ve just got to continue going with them.”
Going with the flow is what Holland has done on a staff that led the American League with a 2.97 ERA in April. Holland said the starters tend to build on each other’s success.
“I’ve always talked about pitching being just like hitting, it’s contagious,” Holland said. “You’ve got to go out there and go after those guys, just like the hitters do. If one guy does great, feed off of that and go with the next guy.”
Holland’s success hasn’t always been reflected in the win column this season. Friday’s game was his fifth quality start in six outings.
“He has been pitching well, he just hasn’t gotten the results for it,” manager Ron Washington said. “To be honest with you, I was shocked when the last time he took the ball in Minnesota his record was 1-1. I thought he had won about three or four ballgames, really.”
Run support has been the main culprit. Holland had received just nine runs of support in his first five starts combined. On Friday, he left with a 7-0 lead.
“Since spring training, he’s been throwing the ball well,” Washington said. “Tonight was another example of what he’s capable of doing. And we finally supported him with some runs.”