News Flash – Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO – The Texas Rangers received some GOOD news on the injury front; lefty Derek Holland returned to the mound last night in his first start of the season since undergoing micro-fracture surgery last January for torn knee cartilage, and pitched 7 strong innings, giving up one earned run, striking out six with no walks and throwing strikes in 70 of his 105 total pitches. The rest of the team, however, was business as usual for this season, and the final score was 2-1 Royals.
Holland stymied the Central Division leading Royals (77-61) throughout, changing speeds effectively and working both sides of the plate at will. He kept the Royals batters off balance with a mix of curves, sliders, change ups and a fastball that ranged from low to mid 90s. The only run scored against him was when left fielder Ryan Rua made two less than stellar plays in the bottom of the third, both resulting in doubles and the only mark on Holland’s night. The first was a misplay of a Alcides Escobar deep fly ball that ended up bouncing over the outfield wall and resulting in a ground rule double, the 2nd was a miss of a slicing line drive by Nori Aoki that looked as if it should be caught.
Ron Washington took out Holland after the 7th as much as precaution as anything, having surely reached what in Wash’s mind was the pitch limit in his starter’s first time back on the mound of a meaningless game for the Rangers (even though he said there would be no hard pitch count going into the game). Holland’s 105 pitches continued to build on his last two rehab starts of 87 and 98 pitches respectively in the minors.
Holland’s counterpart for the Royals, Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 4.31 ERA) also went 7 strong innings, allowing only one earned run when Rougned Odor tripled in the top of the 5th and was brought home on a ground ball to short by Daniel Robertson.
So exactly how big was this start by Holland? For just the 2nd time this season a Rangers starter went at least 7 innings while allowing no walks and one run or less. Let that sink in for a minute. Holland was also the 60th player used by the Rangers this season establishing a new MLB record, albeit not one that any club wants to hold – and the 37th pitcher used, let me say that again….the 37th pitcher used, which ties the existing MLB record (14th different starter).
So in a season that can best be described as an unmitigated disaster, you take the good news where you can find it, and Holland looking as though he hadn’t missed a game all season is something for Rangers fans to truly be excited about. It’s all about getting ready for next season at this point, and having Holland healthy and back in the starting rotation is a great start to 2015.