It's one of those things that can be both fun and frustrating about the 2013 version of the Texas Rangers. They can look so out of sorts one night, but then the next, against one of the top teams in baseball, manage to look dominant.
Max Scherzer hadn't been credited with a loss all season, coming into the game with a 13-0 record. It didn't matter. Even if the offense hadn't been in attack mode, Derek Holland was once again ready to show that he was up to the task of going toe to toe against one of the strongest lineups in baseball.
The key moment of the game came in the 3rd inning in which Derek Holland had the bases loaded with two outs. Holland went right after Victor Martinez and struck him out, keeping Detroit off the board.
At the risk of being considered as prone to hyperbole, I feel like I should say this: Derek Holland has been the staff ace to this point of the season for the Texas Rangers. While Matt Harrison has been out with a back injury and Yu Darvish has been inconsistent, Holland has been an anchor in a rotation that has been decimated by injuries, and his presence is a major reason that the Rangers are still so close in the AL West race as we head into the All-Star break during a season many expected to be a rebuilding year of sorts for a franchise that lost Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Napoli in the offseason. Instead, this ballclub has taken us on one of the most exciting first-half rides that Rangers fans have had the privilege to witness.
Derek Holland has previously shown flashes of this type of pitching prowess, most notably in Game 4 of the World Series in 2011 (a game I had the privilege to see at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), but so far, this season has been his best overall campaign to date. Below, you can see the pitch totals by inning for Holland's game, as well as the strike zone plot.
Most notably, Holland had two 5-pitch innings in the 5th and 6th. As far as the strike zone plot goes, all that can be said is... woah. He got ahead in so many counts that the hitters were off-balance and couldn't recover. His pitching with men on base was fantastic, with the only run he allowed on the evening coming on a Hernan Perez single in the bottom of the 4th inning. That was after the Rangers had put 3 runs on the board in the top half of that inning and provided us this Adrian Beltre sound byte as Mitch Moreland hit a 2-run home run:
As I said earlier this week, Beltre has been outplaying his contract, and that's just another example of the type of energy he brings to this team.
In any case, Holland now has a 3.08 ERA on the season and has showed no signs of slowing down. It's still going to be a struggle until the injuries stop piling up, but if the Rangers can hold on just long enough for reinforcements to arrive, not only could the team patch up the rotation, but some rested and ready arms could be primed for a playoff run and to make additional contributions to a bullpen that has kept this team in a lot of games.
At the end of the day, the Rangers have a chance to win another series against a good team tomorrow to finish things off before the All-Star break, and with young Martin Perez going against Justin Verlander, it could possibly be another good pitching matchup, and with the way a few pitchers have managed to step up this season, including Martin Perez, it wouldn't surprise me much to see the team squeeze another another tough victory. For now, however, it just feels good to say, with some confidence behind the statement, that Derek Holland is the staff ace for the 2013 Texas Rangers. He may not have the flashiest stuff or the flashy pitching pedigree, but he's a pitcher this team has desperately needed this season, and one they'll need going forward to end up being a real contender.