It was really a fairly ordinary 5-3 win, about the average number of runs scored, an unremarkable nine hits for one team and seven for the other, on a mild 77-degree afternoon as light on dramatic plays as big league games get.
Derek Holland was methodical, taking a shutout into the sixth before allowing single runs in that inning and the next one, fanning eight Mariners in 7.1 frames, throwing strike one to 18 of 28 batters faced, and never getting to ball four. He improved to 1-0, 3.38 after two starts.
Ian Kinsler was methodical in his own way, with a single, stolen base, and run scored, later another single and another run scored, and after that a double that scored someone else before he came around to score himself. He saw a team-high 17 pitches and sits at .370/.452/.889, with more walks (four) than strikeouts (two).
Kinsler and Holland filled the box score on Thursday, something we’ve basically come to expect from two guys who have gotten off to solid starts after great second halves in 2011 and tremendous post-seasons and strong springs but whose biggest headlines in the young season have emerged from the bargaining table.
Is it a coincidence that Kinsler and Holland, the franchise’s two biggest stars from a scouting and player development standpoint, are the two players that the organization stepped out on and locked up for a long term in the last few weeks?
Still, it’s meaningful.
They’re homegrown. They were scouted well, and developed extremely well. A 17th-round pick and a 25th-round pick, they each rocketed through the system and were judged to be among the top 100 prospects in baseball before they reached Arlington.
Neither needed to be signed yet. Other key players are in contract years; Kinsler and Holland were not. But the organization nonetheless singled them out to give the core of this winning club some added certainty, some added stability.
Again, I’m not suggesting that Kinsler or Holland got deals because they were products of the system. Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli and Mike Adams and Colby Lewis and others are in line to be free agents this winter, and Texas is reportedly talking to Hamilton’s representatives (at least) to drill down further on the possibility of an extension. The Rangers traded for three of them and signed the fourth from another part of the world. To one degree or another, they’re potential parts of the core, too.
But there’s a residual benefit to the Kinsler and Holland deals, as you can bet they send a message to Matt Harrison and Jurickson Profar and Cody Buckel and Jorge Alfaro and Justin Grimm, a message that, unlike some franchises who contend most years, Texas is positioned to keep a winning club intact and take care of key guys when it’s time for them to get paid.
The players see that. This is an organization that is known not only for developing prospects into ballplayers and providing young players opportunities to contribute but also, now, for giving them regular chances at a ring and, in certain targeted cases, very big paydays.
Not to mention the chance to be teammates with Ian Kinsler and Derek Holland, both of whom stand to still be Texas Rangers when any prospect you want to talk about is projected to arrive.
And for the duration of any contract Hamilton and Napoli and Adams and Lewis might be asked to consider, another bullet point for those players to put in the “yes” column as they think about whether they want to be part of this thing well past 2012.