Derek Holland is making it look easy. The key to his success: first-pitch strikes.
It’s what coaches preach to pitchers from college on up to the majors. And if the win Thursday afternoon over the Mariners is any indication, Holland is listening.
The Dutch Oven carried the game into the 7th, giving up five hits and two runs, along with eight strikeouts.
Holland went deeper into the game than any Rangers starter so far, throwing 115 pitches. It was a breath of fresh air for the Rangers, allowing Ron Washington to rest some of the arms out in the bullpen.
What may be Holland’s most impressive stat from his performance: 16 of the 28 hitters he faced he started out with first pitch strikes.
“That’s the big thing that [pitching coach] Mike Maddux preaches to us first pitch strikes,” Holland said after the game. “So if we go out there and throw our first pitch strikes, go after the hitters right away with strike, it makes it a lot harder for those hitters to react."
The first-pitch strike mentality helped limit the problem Holland had in his first start of the season. In six innings against the White Sox, Holland had three walks in six innings, two of those came around to score in the Rangers’ 4-3 loss.
Holland ended up with a no-decision. This time around against Seattle, no walks and his first win of the season.
The gem by Holland caps off an impressive week for the starting staff, which has a 5-0 mark and a 2.42 ERA through the first seven games. Opponents are hitting just .214 off the Rangers' starters. The stats that are pleasing to coaches eyes; the starters have 12 walks and 40 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings pitched.
We saw last year in the World Series what can happen if the magic of throwing first-pitch strikes doesn’t happen. We saw this week the magic that happens when you do.