Olt’s pinch-hit in 9th lifts Rangers past Tigers

ARLINGTON, Texas  — On a night when the Rangers wore baby blue throwback uniforms, their youngest pup came up with the biggest hit.

Rookie infielder Mike Olt, called up from Double-A just nine days earlier, hit a pinch-hit, RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers.

With confidence-boosting pitching performance from starter Derek Holland, the Rangers recorded their fifth walk-off win of the season and their first that wasn’t in extra innings.

The Rangers honored their 40th anniversary team before the game, then celebrated wildly after the game.

“It was awesome,” Olt said. “It’s special to be a part of that. It’s something I’m never going to forget.”

Just six days earlier, Olt committed the game-ending error in a loss at Kansas City. He said he stayed focused on the bench Saturday by thinking about game situations, then was loose and relaxed when called on to hit for Mitch Moreland.

“It’s something I’m going to build off, which is always good,” Olt said. “I’ve had some bumps along the road, so this is going to help me to relax and just play baseball.”

With two strikes, Olt hit a groundball through the hole between third and short off Tigers reliever Phil Coke.

“For a young kid, he looked calm to me,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He didn’t look overwhelmed. He recognized that Coke was trying to get him out with the breaking balls and he made an adjustment.”

Holland also made an adjustment after giving up a home run to leadoff hitter Austin Jackson to begin the game. He followed that by giving up a single to Omar Infante, but shut down the Tigers from there.

Holland allowed just three hits over 7 2/3 innings and matched his season-high with nine strikeouts.

“I’m not going to say what I said [after the leadoff home run], but yeah, I was very upset with myself,” Holland said, who was already upset with himself after blowing a 5-2 lead in his last start.

“I just kept my cool. I didn’t get as [upset] as I normally would. I kind of gathered my thoughts after it happened, slowed everything down, and I just told myself, that’s one. Don’t worry about. Let’s keep plugging away.”

Holland’s performance matched that of Tigers starter Justin Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young winner and American League MVP. Verlander gave up just one run — an RBI single by Nelson Cruz in the third — and struck out.

Verlander threw 86 strikes out of 118 pitches over seven innings, but left with a no-decision because Holland was doing equally well.

“Yes, he gave up the home run in the first inning, but then he matched zeroes after that,” Washington said.

Mike Adams got the win in relief after inheriting two baserunners, on walks by Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross, in the top of the ninth.

But it was all set up by Holland’s ability to shake off early adversity. In his previous four starts, Holland was 1-2 with a 7.00 ERA.

“I think Derek made the turn,” Washington said. “He made the turn. He was competing hard, he did what he had to do, he executed his pitches when he had to execute.”
 

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire