ARLINGTON -- The Rangers may have lost Wednesday's game to the Mariners, 4-3, but there are still plenty of reasons for the team to be hopeful.For one, the Angels also lost, preserving Texas' 1 1/2-game lead in the American League West. More important, the enigmatic Derek Holland showed signs of growth. "I thought it was a battle for him, but he got us to the sixth inning," manager Ron Washington said. "Usually when Derek goes out there and he doesn't have his best stuff or [isn't] throwing the ball across the plate with consistency, it usually snowballs, but he checked himself and gave us six good innings." This season Holland has been either unhittable or unstoppable, equally as likely to pitch a shutout as he is to pitch just two innings. After Holland allowed the first two hitters reach base -- on five balls and one strike -- it looked as though he might make a quick exit, but he got a temporary reprieve when he induced a double-play ball from Mike Carp. He was at it again in the second inning, loading the bases and then allowing a run to score when he could not get a routine ground ball out of his glove to throw home. "In the second inning, I got bases loaded, and I thought it was good that I got to fight through it," Holland said. "I could have went the other way. I could have been real bad, but at the same time, it's all about maturing and making your pitches when you need to." Holland stranded nine Mariners in his six innings, illustrating how well he pitched under pressure but also how frequently the Mariners got on base against him. "It should be a sign of maturity. He should be proud of what he did tonight in the sense that the game could have gotten out of control," Washington said. "He gave up the three runs and he kept it there, gave us the chance to win. That's all you ask from your starters when you put them out there." If Holland learns to pitch when he is not at his peak, he could go from a roller coaster to a regular contributor, but it takes more than one outing to make that leap. "I think it's a maturity kind of thing, to battle when you don't have your best stuff," Holland said. "I was doing everything I could to help the team to win, but unfortunately, we couldn't come out on top." The Rangers gave Holland just three runs -- on a solo homer by Josh Hamilton and a two-run shot by Ian Kinsler -- primarily because Mariners starter Jason Vargas was able to keep runners off the basepaths. "Keeping guys off base when their big guys come to the plate is huge," Vargas said. Holland turned the game over to the bullpen with the score tied, but Koji Uehara, the first reliever to take the mound, gave up three hits and a run in the seventh. The third hit was a ball hit hard right at Michael Young that skipped just over his glove and into left field. Carp easily scored the go-ahead run from second base, and that was the only additional offense the Mariners needed. "I had a bead on it. Usually, with hard-hit balls like that, they don't take crazy hops," Young said. "You just have to pick them. I don't know what it hit, but it shot straight up in the air. I had a bead on it. He smoked it, but I had a bead on it. With those, all you want to do is catch it, and usually when a guy hits it that hard and you pick it, he's taking a step out of the box. It hit something." That run also snapped what had been a streak of 10 1/3 scoreless innings by the bullpen.
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.