While Yu Darvish is still the Texas ace, Holland struck out eight and allowed only one earned run over seven innings to wrap up his undefeated month in a 7-2 victory over the weary Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
"He's certainly pitching well. He was outstanding again," manager Ron Washington said. "Once again, he stayed out of the fat part of the plate, and off the fat part of the bat for the most part. If Yu Darvish wasn't on the staff we have right now, I guess you'd say Derek would probably be the ace."
Holland (5-2) went 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six May starts, matching a career best for wins in any month. The Rangers, who have the best record in the American League, won all six of those games started by the left-hander.
After Holland gave up a run in the top of the third against the Royals, Nelson Cruz hit a long tiebreaking three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put Texas ahead to stay.
"The offense is going to do their part as long as I do mine," Holland said. "My job is to limit the damage. I thought I did a nice job of that. And our guys came back and did what they're capable of doing, get some runs."
The Royals, after playing until 3:14 a.m. Friday for a victory at St. Louis, led 1-0 after Adam Moore led off the third with a double and scored on a single by Alcides Escobar. They still had two runners on before a comebacker and an inning-ending grounder.
"That's part of the reason we've been struggling a little bit. You get second and third with one out and we take the lead, have an opportunity to tack some more on, and we just couldn't," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.
"They're giving us a run, they're playing the infield back and we couldn't take advantage of it, we hit the ball to the pitcher and we can't get a two-out hit. ... That's the way things have been going."
The Royals finished 8-20 in May, losing nine of their last 10 games.
Cruz pulled a ball an estimated 419 feet, his 13th homer hitting a scoreboard high above the first section of seats in left field, to make it 4-1 against Wade Davis (3-5).
"It's just a weird day, it was a weird day," Davis said. "I was a little sluggish, but I made good pitches, I just made one bad one."
Adrian Beltre led off the Rangers seventh off the Royals second reliever with his 11th homer, his fourth hit of the game. It was his fourth four-hit game this season -- all in May, the first Texas player with four such games in a month. He had 44 hits in May and is hitting .306, over .300 for the first time this season.
Beltre's eight-game hitting streak includes multiple hits in five of his past seven games. He had an RBI single right before the Cruz homer.
"When you see Adrian recognize a breaking ball and go down to his knee and it leaves the ballpark, you know he's swinging the bat well," Washington said.
The Rangers (34-20) have played exactly one-third of their regular season, and matched their most wins at this point.
Kansas City had an eight-game losing streak before the win over the Cardinals. That game started an hour late because of rain, and then had another 4 1/2-hour delay after the Royals took the lead with three runs in the top of the ninth in George Brett's first game as their hitting coach.
The Royals got to their Texas hotel about 7 a.m. Friday -- right fielder Jeff Francoeur said the sun was coming up and people were already having breakfast as team members headed to their rooms.
Davis had a season-high eight strikeouts with no walks in what was otherwise another tough start against Texas, giving up six runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 17.18 ERA in three starts against the Rangers. He twice started for Tampa Bay against them, giving up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings and then eight runs in 3 1-3 innings.
The last batter Davis faced was A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a ball that ricocheted off the padding on the top of the 8-foot wall in straightaway center.
Pierzynski rounded first base with his right hand extended above his head signaling home run. Washington went out to question the play with the umpires, who did go look at the replay that showed clearly that the ball stayed in the park.
- Rangers RHP Alexi Ogando pitched six innings, allowing two unearned runs, in a rehab start for Double-A Frisco. He went on the 15-day disabled list May 16 with right biceps tendinitis. He could rejoin the Rangers next week.