Derek Holland threw eight shutout innings Sunday, and a 4-0 Ranger win in Oakland made Ron Washington the Rangers’ all-time winningest manager.
Holland struck out 10 A’s hitters in the effort, throwing 77 strikes on 112 pitches in his ninth win of the season. The lefty allowed just four hits and walked two in his seventh quality start in eight outings.
Holland’s outing was highlighted by a strikeout of Josh Reddick with runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh. He pumped his fist enthusiastically before being greeted by high fives from his teammates in the dugout.
Sometimes for an offense, it’s about the ball bouncing the right way.
In Sunday’s afternoon game, the bounces happened to be off of the gloves of a couple Oakland players in the California sun. And the Rangers were able to capitalize.
With two outs in the first inning, Yoenis Cespedes dropped an Ian Kinsler fly ball in the left field warning track. The error by the 2013 Home Run Derby champion allowed Adrian Beltre to bring home Kinsler on a line shot to left in the following at-bat to give the Rangers the early lead.
Mitch Moreland drilled his sixteenth home run of the season to right field after another missed opportunity by the Oakland’s Nate Freiman. The Athletics’ first baseman missed a pop fly on a sliding effort in foul territory during a two-out at-bat for Craig Gentry.
Gentry reached on an infield single, and Moreland did the rest to pad the Ranger lead.
Between those costly mistakes by the Oakland defense, Nelson Cruz sent an 0-1 second inning pitch into the left field bleachers for the Rangers’ second run of the game.
After the solo blast by Cruz, A’s starter A.J. Griffin walked David Murphy. After the free pass, the longhaired, glasses-wearing Oakland right-hander retired 14 consecutive Ranger hitters before a harmless two-out single by Adrian Beltre in the sixth inning.
Entering Sunday’s game, Griffin had averaged just over 101 pitches per start. After he hit that threshold in the seventh inning Sunday, the Rangers got to him.
His 102nd pitch of the afternoon retired David Murphy on a pop-up at home plate. But the next batter was Gentry, who reached on a dribbler to shortstop, and Mitch Moreland’s two-run blast came on pitch no. 108 by Griffin.
The Ranger defense aided Holland’s effort. Three impressive plays on the Ranger infield helped preserve the shutout.
Ian Kinsler saved a run with a diving stop to end the second inning. Elvis Andrus took a page out of Derek Jeter’s book with a leaping throw in the shortstop hole in the third, and Adrian Beltre made a diving stop at third base in the sixth.
Sunday’s game ended on a flawlessly-executed 6-4-3 double play behind Joe Nathan, the only Ranger pitcher to take the mound in relief of Holland.
The Rangers didn’t miss many opportunities Sunday afternoon. They capitalized on Oakland mistakes at the plate, and didn’t miss many chances on defense.
And most importantly, the Rangers capitalized on the chance to gain ground in the division.
The win in Oakland gave the Rangers win no. 62 on the season, and win no. 582 for Ron Washington wearing a 38 on the back of a Ranger uniform. The series win over the AL West leaders cuts the deficit to two-and-a-half games.
The road trip continues on the West Coast as the Rangers travel to Anaheim, Calif. for a three-game set with the Angels. First pitch Monday is slated for 9:05 p.m.
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