Holland has what Beckett's looking for

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
3:06
PM ET
The Texas Rangers put on an awesome offensive display in Tuesday's 18-3 win over the Boston Red Sox. But tonight's pitching matchup features a pair of starters with a history of shutting down their opposition.

Let's take a closer look at Derek Holland's and Josh Beckett's performance so far this season as they prepare for this Wednesday Night Baseball meeting (7 pm ET, ESPN2).

Holland successful early
Holland has a 3.37 ERA and 0.83 WHIP through his first two starts in 2012. In particular, he's rated well in getting ahead of hitters early in the count, throwing his first pitch for a strike 67 percent of the time. In each of the previous three seasons, Holland's first-pitch strike rate has hovered between 56 and 58 percent.

Holland's fastball has averaged 93.9 miles-per-hour since the start of last season, a hair behind David Price for the distinction of hardest-throwing lefty starter in the majors. His fastball averages almost a mile-per-hour more than that of CC Sabathia and Clayton Kershaw.

Holland has faced the Red Sox three times previously, winning twice and posting a 2.95 ERA. In his last start against them, he pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in a 10-0 win at Fenway Park.

Matchup to watch: Holland has won seven of the eight head-to-head battles he's had with Dustin Pedroia, holding him to just one base hit. Pedroia has worked his share of deep counts against Holland, but did not reach base in any of the three instances in which the count ran to 3-2.

Beckett's unusual start
Beckett's fastball velocity has been an early-season storyline.

Beckett's fastball is averaging 90.6 miles-per-hour through two starts. In his 1st 2 starts, Beckett has a total of four strikeouts in 12⅔ innings pitched. It’s the first time since June 2007 that Beckett has gone consecutive starts with less than four strikeouts. Beckett has never gone three consecutive starts without registering at least four strikeouts in a game.

Beckett has been able to get to two strikes on hitters, but has not finished them off at his usual success rate.

The four whiffs have come on 24 two-strike counts, a strikeout success rate of just 17 percent. From 2009 to 2011, Beckett fanned 43 percent of hitters against whom he got a two-strike count.

Since the start of the 2010 season, Rangers hitters have the lowest strikeout rate in the majors-- having fanned in just 15 percent of their plate appearances (the average major league hitters strikes out about one out of every 5.5 plate appearances.

Matchup to watch: Josh Hamilton is 6-for-14 with two home runs in his career against Beckett, with both home runs coming in 2010. Hamilton hit a 469-foot home run in Tuesday's win, the second-longest tracked home run at Fenway Park since the start of the 2006 season (Vladimir Guerrero hit a 484-foot home run there in 2006).

Hamilton has five home runs this season, all against pitches over the inner-third or middle-third of the plate. He's also 10-for-27 (.370 BA) in at-bats ending against pitches on the outer-third of the plate or further outside. Last season, Hamilton hit .262 against pitches thrown to that area.

Hamilton hasn't hit a home run against a pitch on the outer-third of the plate this season. But Beckett allowed three home runs on outer-third pitches to lefties in his first start of the season against the Tigers.

Mark Simon also contributed to this post

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