Holland cruising through early part of season

Rangers starter logs third quality start in win over Angels

Holland cruising through early part of season

ARLINGTON -- After cruising through a 7-2 victory over the Angels on Saturday, Rangers lefty Derek Holland feels like he's in a pretty good place at the end of April -- especially compared to where he was a year ago.

Now 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA and three quality starts -- including Saturday's outing -- in five starts this season, Holland is far removed from the darkness of a year ago. Last season, he lasted just one inning in the home opener, injured his shoulder, didn't return until August, then struggled in September.

"Thank God it's over," said Holland, who tossed six scoreless innings for the win Saturday. "I was miserable. It was a lonely time. I'm definitely happy that changed."

The same could be said of the Rangers, at least when it comes to this time last year. Texas was 7-14 last April; it finished the first month of this season 14-10. Among the things the Rangers weren't getting last April was dependable starting pitching -- Texas leads the Majors with 18 quality starts this season -- and big innings like the six-run third frame that gave Holland a big lead to work with.

"It's night and day," Holland said. "Everybody's healthy. We still continue to get out there and get better. We're not satisfied as a team, I think we know what we're capable of, and we've got to make those strides."

Holland only threw 90 pitches Saturday and wanted to pitch longer, but said he was told there were guys in the bullpen who needed work. The fact that the Rangers need to find spots to get underused relievers in games says a lot about where the Rangers are with their starting rotation right now.

Tom Wilhelmsen and Tony Barnette pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings and Phil Klein allowed a homer in the ninth as the Rangers preserved Holland's win.

"My hat's off to that, let those guys get in there and do their thing, I know they're going to go out there and shut them down," Holland said.

The seventh-year lefty said he's making a conscious effort to get ahead in counts quickly, and he did that Saturday.

"He was very limited in the deep counts, only five [at-bats] where he was behind in the count," manager Jeff Banister said. "When he's getting ahead he's putting hitters back on the defense and he's able to use the breaking ball and the changeup when he needs to. He can run the fastball away and when he sees hitters look to cover the outside that's when he can go to his best pitch, and that's the fastball in."

Banister on 7-2 win over Angels

Holland had walked eight batters in his first 23 innings this season, but didn't walk any Saturday. It was the first time he didn't walk a batter in the past 11 starts. He threw 61 strikes and 29 balls in his second scoreless outing of 2016.

"I'm continuing to improve and attack the zone, work on my first-pitch strikes and today I thought I made some good progress there," Holland said.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.