Given all the circumstances, this may have been the Rangers' best pitching performance of the season.
It was certainly their first complete game. Holland held the Yankees to just two singles and two walks and led the Rangers to a 2-0 victory in the Bronx. Holland won a playoff game in relief against the Yankees in 2010, but he was 0-5 with an 8.85 ERA in eight career regular-season appearances against them before this brilliant performance.
"It's huge," Holland said after throwing just 92 pitches. "I haven't had great success here, so to come into Yankee Stadium and throw a two-hit shutout was big ... a big boost to my confidence. I came into a great ballpark against a good team and made a statement: two hits, 92 pitches. It's huge."
It's huge, because Holland's performance allowed the Rangers to take two out of three from the Yankees and finish 5-1 on the road trip. The Rangers have also won eight of their past 10 going into a nine-game homestand that starts against the Reds on Friday night.
But it also gave the Rangers' bullpen a badly needed day of rest. Kyle McClellan did some side work during the game, and closer Joe Nathan warmed up lightly in the ninth just in case. But otherwise, Holland's sixth career complete game and shutout came at the right time.
"He was tremendous," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He had everything working today. He was hitting his spots, changing speed, taking it a hitter at a time and a pitch at a time. Derek deserves a lot of credit for giving our bullpen a breather.
"Before the game, I said I hope he goes nine, and he did. I wish I had that kind of magic in Powerball."
Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells was asked what Holland did right on Thursday.
"Everything," said Wells, who struck out three times. "His velocity was up, his slider was really good today, probably the best I've seen his slider. He stayed away from barrels and stayed away from the middle of the plate. When you do that, with that kind of stuff, you'll have the results he did today."
"He didn't make too many mistakes," said first baseman Lyle Overbay, who went 0-for-3. "He kept the ball down, and I think we were a little too aggressive on his pitches. We just didn't get it deep into counts. We didn't put any pressure on him it seemed like. It's frustrating."
Holland was the first Rangers pitcher to shut out the Yankees in the Bronx since Kevin Brown on April 17, 1993. The last pitcher to shut out the Yankees in the Bronx on fewer than 92 pitches was Greg Maddux with the Braves on July 2, 1997. Maddux did it in 84 pitches.
Holland struck out seven, did not allow a hit after the third inning and retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced. Only once did the Yankees get a runner past first base.
"It was great … after the first inning, he went into a rhythm and just hit his spots," catcher Geovany Soto said. "He kept his offspeed down when he needed to and elevated his fastball when he wanted to. His command was excellent. As a catcher, you don't have to do too much if the second pitch of the last inning is 96 [mph]. He had it today."
Yankees starter Phil Hughes wasn't bad, holding the Rangers to two runs on five hits in eight innings. The Rangers scratched out one run in the third, when Jurickson Profar walked, went to third on Engel Beltre's hit-and-run single to right -- the first hit of his career -- and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ian Kinsler. Profar added his third home run of the season in the fifth.
"Both pitchers threw the ball well," first baseman Mitch Moreland said. "Fortunately, we were able to scratch two runs, and that was all Derek needed today. Both pitchers were pounding the zone. Working behind Derek was a lot of fun today. It seemed like every pitch, he put it where he wanted. It was a fun game to play."
The only dint in Holland's performance was that three of the four baserunners he allowed did so leading off the inning. But Holland cut off any potential threats quickly. Jayson Nix led off the fourth with a walk and stole second with one out. Holland responded by striking out Wells and getting Zolio Almonte to ground out in the Yankees' only at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Robinson Cano walked to load off the seventh, but he was cut down trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Soto did a nice job of keeping the ball in front of him and making a strong throw to second for the out. Cano was the Yankees' only baserunner in the final five innings.
"To go out there and do that to a great ballclub … my defense was great, and Geo and I were on the same page all day," Holland said. "The offense gave me what I needed. They knew I was determined to win."
It was a performance worth sitting back and watching.