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Cruz homers in first four games of 2011 season

ARLINGTON -- The big hits and the home runs just keep coming for the Rangers. But just as important is they aren't coming for the other team and that's why the Rangers are 4-0 for the first time since 1996.

They are winning because they are hitting the long ball and coming through with runners in scoring position, and the other team is not. That's why Derek Holland's pitching was just as important as home runs hit by Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over the Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington on Monday night.

A crowd of 37,618 saw the Rangers begin the season with a four-game winning streak for only the third time in the last 32 seasons. They and the Orioles are the only two undefeated teams left in the American League.

"We plan to have a lot of four-game winning streaks this season," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We're just playing good baseball right now and want to continue that."

The home runs by Andrus and Cruz gave the Rangers 13 homers in four games. They also have 26 extra-base hits and are hitting .375 with runners in scoring position. On the flip side, Rangers pitchers have allowed just three home runs and 11 extra-base hits, and opponents are hitting .195 with runners in scoring position.

Cruz has homered in each of the Rangers' games, becoming the third Major Leaguer to homer in each of the first four games of a season. Willie Mays did it in 1971 and Mark McGwire duplicated the feat in 1998.

All of that will get any team off to a 4-0 start.

"I don't think four games is a start," designated hitter Michael Young said. "It's important to keep the big picture in mind. Two months is a start; this isn't even a full week of baseball. We're happy with the way we've played and the intensity we've shown. The focus and the energy has been great. That's what we want to continue. We're not getting excited about our record, although winning is still the only goal."

Holland earned a victory in his first start of the season while allowing three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out five. What he did best was holding the Mariners to 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners were 3-for-13 in the game.

"That was huge for me," Holland said. "Anytime you can limit the damage is huge. You've just got to make pitches and remember there are eight guys behind you helping you get out of it."

A first-inning home run by Andrus -- his first long ball since Sept. 2, 2009 -- and a two-run triple by Julio Borbon in the second gave Holland a three-run lead. Borbon's triple was set up by a two-out walk to Mike Napoli and an error by right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, a 10-time Gold Glove winner who dropped Yorvit Torrealba's line drive.

"It was one of those low line drives," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He was aggresssive coming in but got caught in between and it handcuffed him a little bit. They're a strong-hitting ballclub and I felt we gave ourselves a chance tonight, but we didn't finish innings off and a few mistakes hurt us."

Holland took that 3-0 lead into the fourth inning before Milton Bradley led off with a single, went to second when Jack Cust walked and scored on a double by Justin Smoak.

That left Holland with a 3-1 lead with no outs and runners on second and third. Miguel Olivo's grounder to short scored a second run, but Holland escaped with the lead still intact when Ryan Langerhans grounded to first and Brendan Ryan struck out.

Cruz's home run made it 4-2 before Holland found himself in more trouble in the fifth. This time, Jack Wilson led off with a single and went to third on a double by Ichiro. Again Holland did not get out of the inning without giving up a run. But he did once again escape with the Rangers still leading.

Chone Figgins scored the run with a grounder to short with Suzuki moving to third as the tying run. But he didn't score. Holland struck out Bradley and retired Cust on a grounder to first to end the threat.

"That's what pitching is all about," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "You get yourself into trouble and you get yourself out of trouble by keeping runners in scoring position from scoring. You're not always going to go out there and keep things as smooth as you would like. Sometimes you have to battle and our guys are getting it done."

Holland pitched a scoreless sixth and let the bullpen finish up. Neftali Feliz was the last one standing and earned his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth.

"I'm glad it's over and the jitters are gone," Holland said. "I didn't have as many jitters as I thought I would for the first one, but we got it done." Comments