By Noey Kupchan
(AP) — After a year-one hiatus from major league baseball, Bartolo Colon is thriving at the back end of the New York Yankees’ rotation.
The 37-year-old veteran’s success shouldn’t come as any surprise to the Texas Rangers.
Looking to continue his domination of Texas, Colon takes the mound for the Yankees as the teams continue their three-game set at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday night.
Before signing with New York (18-12) in the offseason, Colon (2-1, 3.00 ERA) had previously appeared in the majors during 2009, when he went 3-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 starts for the Chicago White Sox.
The 2005 AL Cy Young award winner, now in his 14th season, failed to impress in three relief appearances this year but has flourished since filling in for injured starter Phil Hughes, going 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA while striking out 20 and walking just three over three starts spanning 21 2-3 innings.
“When he locates (his two-seam fastball) like he can, it’s just a tough pitch to hit,” catcher Russell Martin told MLB.com. “You can put the ball on a tee where he throws it, and it’s just going to be a tough pitch to hit off of. And he’s able to throw it anywhere between 90 and 96 mph.”
The right-hander gave up three runs, seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings but didn’t receive a decision in Monday’s 5-3 win at Detroit.
“I didn’t expect to be striking out a lot of people,” Colon said in Spanish. “I guess it’s the pitches that are moving a lot.”
Colon, 10th among active pitchers with 1,640 strikeouts, has gone 12-1 with a 2.89 ERA in his last 13 starts against the Rangers (17-16), and his 17 career wins against them are his most versus any opponent. He has won his last five outings in Arlington but hasn’t pitched there since 2007.
Derek Holland (3-1, 4.66), who gave up three runs – two earned – and eight hits over seven innings of a 5-4, 10-inning loss at Oakland on Monday, has compiled a 7.71 ERA while losing all three of his outings versus the Yankees.
The left-hander is 2-0 in three home starts this season despite a 6.50 ERA.
New York snapped its season-worst three-game losing streak with a series-opening 4-1 victory Friday as Curtis Granderson hit his ninth and AL-best 10th home runs.
“Curtis was outstanding with the two home runs and giving us a lead…,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I expected him to be productive and hit the ball really hard, but 10 home runs?”
Four of those long balls have come in four meetings with the Rangers, against whom he is batting .429 this season.
The Rangers rank among the top five in the majors in runs (156) and home runs (38), but have scored just once in each of their last two games.
Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, and Adrian Beltre, the first four hitters in Friday’s Texas lineup, combined to go 0 for 16.
“Nobody wants to come out and play like we’ve played the last couple of games,” the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland said. “We’re just down right now, we’re not playing our game and that’s the way it works. It’s a long season. You’re going to have these down times.”
Texas has dropped 15 of 23 since opening the season 9-1.
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, hitless in his last nine at-bats overall, is 4 for 10 with two home runs lifetime against Holland.
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