Derek Holland's solid start hasn't necessarily surprised Ron Washington, but the Texas Rangers' manager is excited to see consistent improvement in his left-hander.
Los Angeles Angels skipper Mike Scioscia likely wishes he could say the same about Joe Blanton.
Hot-hitting Texas seeks a fourth consecutive victory while ending the host Angels' three-game winning streak in the opener of a three-game series Monday night.
After going 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in 2011, Holland's numbers slipped last season as he finished 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA. Washington, though, maintained his confidence in Holland heading into this season, and he hasn't disappointed so far while going 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA.
He gave up only two hits while striking out six in seven scoreless innings of a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. He's gone at least seven innings in each of his three starts, including allowing two runs in seven frames of Texas' 3-2 win over the Angels on April 5.
"Derek is certainly proving not only to us but to himself that he can be consistent," Washington told the team's official website. "It's nice to see him out there using all his pitches and throwing them for strikes. His breaking ball has much more depth.
"He's much better to me. He's a more polished pitcher. His stuff is consistent and has been consistent since Day 1 of spring training."
Despite his solid performance the last time he faced Los Angeles, the left-hander is 2-2 with a 6.09 ERA over his last five starts versus the Angels. He could be the benefactor, though, of the recently hot Texas offense, which came alive in a big way in Sunday's 11-3 win over Seattle to complete a three-game sweep.
The Rangers (12-6) led the majors in runs scored last season, but the offense sputtered at times before outscoring the Mariners 23-3. Nelson Cruz hit a grand slam while Mitch Moreland, Adrian Beltre and Leonys Martin also homered.
"We definitely took a step forward with the runs we put up over the three games," Moreland said. "If we can keep doing that, and keep taking care of business, and our pitching keeps throwing like they are, I think we'll be all right."
Texas looks to keep rolling as it faces the struggling Blanton, who hasn't gotten off to a very good start in his first season with the Angels.
Blanton has dropped each of his first three outings while posting a dismal 8.59 ERA. He's given up 15 runs in 14 2-3 innings, including four in 4 2-3 of an 8-2 loss to Minnesota last Monday.
"He hasn't been able to command counts the way he can, he hasn't been in good zones as often as he needs to be," Scioscia told the team's official website. "It's in him to be a better pitcher. He'll get there."
The right-hander is 6-2 with a 5.01 ERA in his last nine starts versus the Rangers, though he hasn't faced them since 2008.
Los Angeles (7-10) is coming off a three-game sweep of defending AL champion Detroit, as Mark Trumbo homered leading off the bottom of the 13th on Sunday.
"It was pretty well chronicled that we struggled early on. But three wins against a team of this caliber is an excellent sign," Trumbo said.
Former Ranger Josh Hamilton, hitting .176, went 0 for 5 on Sunday and has just one hit in his last 21 at-bats. He went 3 for 13 against his former team as Texas took two of three from April 5-7.