SEATTLE -- Derek Holland knew what was going on. He knew in the second inning when he had retired six straight hitters.By the start of the sixth, Holland had retired 15 straight on a mere 53 pitches and knew a no-hitter was in the works. "Then I got caught looking at the scoreboard and let a couple of pitches get away," said Holland, who let the no-hitter get away but not his second straight shutout or the Rangers' eighth straight win. Holland ended up with a five-hitter as the Rangers opened the second half with a 5-0 victory over the Mariners on a cool Pacific Northwest Thursday evening at Safeco Field. He allowed just five singles and a walk while striking out eight. "Awesome," said Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli. "He did an incredible job," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "The story was their guy and the way he pitched and what we did not do against him," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He had real good stuff. He had a powerful sinker, a good changeup, threw some good sliders. He threw a real good ballgame. He was aggressive, strong and had real good command. He had everything in sync tonight. A couple of those sinkers just exploded on the plate." The Rangers supported Holland with three home runs off Mariners starter Jason Vargas. Josh Hamilton hit his 12th in the first inning, Nelson Cruz went deep for the 21st time this season in the second and Napoli hit one out in the sixth. The win allowed the Rangers to pick up right where they finished before the break, extending their longest winning streak of the year while moving to a season-high 11 games over .500. "It's huge," Napoli said. "We all talked about getting our rest over the break but staying mentally strong and mentally focused ... be ready to come back out of the gate and get going again." The Rangers, who were the first Mariners opponent to hit three home runs in a game at Safeco this season, are now 1 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the American League West. "We finished the first half strong, and it's good to start the second half strong," Cruz said. "Holland threw a great game. He didn't need that many runs. He dominated the other team." Holland threw a four-hit shutout over the Athletics last Thursday in his final start before the All-Star break. The Athletics and the Mariners are last in the AL in hitting and runs scored -- by a wide margin -- but they are also two division opponents that the Rangers need to beat to win the AL West. "You've still got to make pitches," Holland said. "They're hitters are pretty good. They're in our division and they want to win, too. They want to be in first place, too. It's not an easy game." Holland, 8-4 with a 4.32 ERA on the season, is the first Rangers pitcher to throw back-to-back shutouts since Charlie Hough threw three straight in 1983. Jim Umbarger, back in 1976, is the only other Rangers pitcher to throw consecutive shutouts. This was Holland's third of the year, tying him with Vargas and James Shields of the Rays for the most in the AL. These past two came after he allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning in a 9-5 loss to the Marlins that had people wondering how much longer Holland would be in the rotation. "I'm just executing pitches better and definitely getting ahead of hitters," Holland said. "He definitely has the repertoire," manager Ron Washington said. "That's two in a row throwing the ball the way he is capable. He's not going to throw a shutout every night, but if he can stay consistent, he'll be fine. He did an outstanding job tonight." Holland had both his curve and changeup working, but catcher Yorvit Torrealba said Holland's fastball made the biggest difference. "He used all his pitches and pounded the strike zone, but the main thing was the fastball," Torrealba said. "He was keeping the fastball down and on both sides of the plate, in and out, up and down." Holland retired the first 15 hitters he faced before walking Franklin Gutierrez to lead off the sixth. Chone Figgins then lined a single to right to break up the no-hitter and put runners on first and second. "I tried to keep my mind off it, but I knew what was going and let it affect me," Holland said. But Holland, after Torrealba had a little chat with him, retired the next three hitters on a pop, grounder and fly ball to end the inning. "He was fine," Torrealba said. "I know by experience, in those situations pitchers will say, 'Oh, I gave up a hit ...' That's what I was talking to him about, but he was fine." Holland said getting out of that jam was "huge" because the "big inning" has been his nemesis at various points this season. He also gave up a couple of hits in both the seventh and the ninth without letting the shutout get away. "That's part of the maturation process," Holland said. "That was the big inning. ... Here it comes. But I was able to make pitches and get out of it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.