Trevor Holder and the Potomac Nationals proved it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Holder allowed three hits over six innings Saturday as Potomac clinched the Carolina League North Division second-half title by blanking Kinston, 3-0, in the opener of a doubleheader.
The Nationals' third-round pick in the 2009 Draft, Holder (3-3) struck out six, induced nine ground-ball outs and faced only two batters over the minimum.
"I think the main thing was attacking the zone with my fastball," he said. "I kind of got away from that in my last few outings. We did a lot of things right tonight -- pounding the zone and letting my defense do the work."
The 23-year-old right-hander joined Potomac in late June, and has been part of the second-half turnaround for the Nationals (38-29). They finished 31-39 in the first half, 10 games out of first place.
"Well, obviously at the [All-Star] break, we made some changes, some guys go up, some guys get called up," manager Gary Cathcart said. "These guys really put their individual stuff aside and did their best for the team.
"We might not be the most talented team, but they play as well as any team I've been around. What I like about our guys is that once they got to first place they had their eyes on the prize."
Cathcart is in his first season in the Washington organization, having spent the previous seven with Toronto. Holder, he said, is a key factor in the second-half success.
"Well, he battled through some tough innings early, but he's been a big part of what we've done here in the second half. He was tremendous tonight," the manager added.
Cathcart also praised Carolina League MVP Tyler Moore, who's hit a franchise-record 30 homers.
"Obviously, the second half Tyler Moore had is as good as you'll see at any level," he said. "The kid's hitting .197 at the All-Star break with nine homers and 40 RBIs and ends up with 30 and 110. He started to loosen up when he had some success. He's been a big catalyst for us."
Holder, a South Atlantic League All-Star, was elated to play a big part in his first clinching.
"This is something that I haven't experienced since I signed," he said. "Back at [the University of Georgia], we went to the [College] World Series a couple of times, but it's just a different atmosphere. It's something I'll never forget. These guys have been battling for the past two months. The main thing is that these guys play for each other."
The Nationals jumped on the board early, scoring in the first inning on Moore's RBI single. It remained a one-run game until Derek Norris, who leads the Carolina League with 87 walks, singled in a run in the sixth.
Pat McCoy earned his sixth save with a perfect seventh.