BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Panic buttons were being pushed all over the Metroplex Friday after the Rangers had lost three straight home games for the first time in more than a year.  Boston had looked like a bunch of stranglers out-scoring the Rangers 30-7 in the last three games of the series ended Thursday.  Not to worry!  Derek Holland pitched into the seventh inning allowing just a single run, and the Rangers’ offense exploded for 11 runs, as Texas opened this series with an 11-7 victory over Los Angeles.  The win assured that the Rangers would remain in first place when this series is completed Sunday night.

Texas built an 11-0 lead in the first five innings, but the Angels came back to score seven straight runs, including a two-run home run from Howie Kendrick in the ninth, to make the final score reasonably close.

Nelson Cruz wielded the big stick to support Holland’s pitching effort.  He tallied four hits, two of which were round trippers, and drove in six runs on the night.  One of the home runs was estimated at 452 feet, one of the longest home runs in Ranger history.  He came into the game 4-27 in his past seven games, so the breakout night was a welcome site for Ranger fans’ eyes.

The big hit on the night though was a David Murphy grand slam home run in the fifth inning, taking the score from 3-0 to 7-0.  It was the Rangers’ third grand slam of the season.  The slam was one of three hits for Murphy.  Michael Young also chipped in with three hits.

Dan Haren started for the Angels.  He entered the game with the American League’s sixth best ERA at 2.98.  He didn’t last five innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits, ballooning his ERA to 3.19  He departed immediately after allowing the Murphy grand slam with one out in the fifth.

Holland got into trouble in the first after allowing two hits, but a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play ended the inning.  Another double play took him off the hook in the second.  From there, he stiffened and was never in trouble again.  He has been “good Derek or bad Derek” in his starts this year.  There is little middle ground.  He is either very good or very bad.  The Rangers were thankful to see “good Derek” Friday night on the heels of the Boston massacre over the previous three nights.  Holland’s record is now 12-5 in 2011, and his career record crept above .500 at 23-22.  His performance was really better than the final stats indicate.  Three of the eight hits he allowed Friday night were of the infield variety, one of which was a bad call.  He walked two, struck out six, and lowered his ERA to 4.30.  It was a pitching performance the Rangers badly needed to end the team’s three game losing streak.

The win increased the Rangers’ lead in the West to three games in the standings and to two games in the loss column.

About three hours before the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made official the speculation about his starting pitchers for the next two days.  Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver will start the Saturday and Sunday games.  Both pitchers will be starting on three days rest for the first time in their careers.  It smacks of a desperate move for the Angels.  After closing the Rangers’ lead to two games and just one in the loss column with a six game winning streak, the Angels are not going to be eliminated from the race even if Texas sweeps the series.  Running out Santana and Weaver on short rest ups the Rangers’ odds of a sweep after taking out Haren Friday night.

NOTES: Adrian Beltre (hamstring) was medically cleared to begin a minor league rehab stint with AAA Round Rock.  There is no time table for his return yet, but he is likely to be activated by September 1 when the rosters expand.

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