Rangers prevail on Cruz's homer in 10th
Holland, Andrus steal show in victory over Astros
HOUSTON -- When it was over on Friday night, manager Ron Washington was asked who was the Rookie of the Night. The candidates were pitcher Derek Holland and shortstop Elvis Andrus."They were both pretty good," Washington said, declining to render a verdict. They were indeed on a night when Nelson Cruz delivered the final big blow with a 10th-inning home run that gave the Rangers a 6-5 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Cruz's home run off of Astros reliever LaTroy Hawkins allowed the Rangers to snap a three-game losing streak after getting swept by the Tigers in Detroit.
But the night really belonged to the Rangers' prized rookies. Holland was excellent -- almost dominant -- in his first Major League start until he made one major mistake at the end. Andrus was marvelous on both sides of the game. He had four hits on the night -- including his third home run -- and made two outstanding defensive plays in the late innings.Without those two plays, the Rangers may well have been staring at their fourth straight loss even after the nice job by Holland. "A great night," Andrus said after Frank Francisco had secured the victory by striking out Jason Michaels in the bottom of the ninth. "This was a great victory, especially after the long series in Detroit," Cruz said. "It was tough, in Detroit we couldn't get our offense going, but everybody knows we can hit and we can get it done." The only downside was third baseman Michael Young injured his right foot in the first inning when he stepped on first baseman Lance Berkman's foot trying to get back to the bag on a pickoff play. Young strained the right foot pretty good. He stayed in the game for the rest of the night and had three hits, but the foot was wrapped up tight with ice afterward and he could barely walk to his locker. He is questionable for Saturday's game. "I'm almost sure it's going to swell tonight," Young said. "We'll just see how it feels tomorrow." Young drove in the Rangers' first run with an RBI single in the third inning and that appeared like it might be all Holland needed. The Rangers had him on an 80-pitch limit and for awhile that didn't appear to be a factor. Holland held the Astros scoreless and almost without breaking a sweat through five innings while the Rangers were building him a 5-0 lead around home runs by Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "I did my part," Holland said. "I felt good, I felt confident. My teammates behind me were making plays." The Astros had just two hits through five. Holland did not walk a batter and struck out four. "He got out there and went on the attack," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "He was facing some pretty good All-Stars and a veteran ballclub and he was doing really good things. His command was very nice and [so was] his aggressiveness. He really got it going." One All-Star almost ruined his night. Holland, in what was likely his last inning anyway, retired the first two batters in the sixth. But Michael Bourn reached on a bunt hit and Kazuo Matsui bounced a single up the middle. That brought up Lance Berkman, and he crushed a 3-1 slider over the left-field wall for a three-run home run. That brought Holland's night to an end. "I didn't run out of gas," Holland said. "One pitch took me out of it." But he left a deep impression, and Berkman was among those who could see why Holland is so highly regarded. "The guys throws 95 mph from the left side," Berkman said. "It seems like five or six years ago, if a lefty threw 90 that was hard. Now they've got guys all over the league throwing 95 from the left side. He's one of them. His stuff is great." Holland left with a 5-3 lead, but the Astros tied it up in the seventh on RBI singles by Geoff Blum and Bourn against relievers Jason Jennings and C.J. Wilson. Andrus kept it tied, though, when he made a nice play and strong throw going to his right on Matsui's slow grounder to end the inning. That was just the first of two great plays. In the eighth, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence reached on a pair of one-out singles off Wilson. After Darren O'Day replaced Wilson, Miguel Tejada hit a hard grounder into the left-side hole. Andrus made a terrific backhanded stop on the edge of the outfield grass and started an inning-ending double play with second baseman Ian Kinsler. "That double play Elvis started ... that saved the game for us," Washington said. "I didn't think we were going to get the double play," Andrus said. "I was just trying to get the out at second. So I threw the ball as quick as I could and I saw he was only halfway to first base." That helped keep it tied until Cruz went deep in the 10th and Washington said afterward, "Everybody contributed tonight." But two rookies stood out above all.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.