ARLINGTON -- Derek Holland talked like a pitcher who's pretty accustomed to winning as he stood in front of his locker after a bummer of a start in Monday's 7-4 Rangers loss to the Yankees.
That's because that's all Holland has done since last August -- win. The left-hander carried a seven-game winning streak into Monday's outing, and including the postseason, he had won 13 of his last 14 starts, which put him in the company of just a handful of pitchers in the Majors.
That's why it was so refreshing to see the disappointment on Holland's face as he dissected Monday's flat start, which included four walks and a killer three-run home run hit by Alex Rodriguez that gave the Yankees an insurmountable 6-1 lead in the top of the fifth.
"I'm pretty upset with myself," said Holland, who allowed seven runs on nine hits in six innings, striking out just one. "I didn't battle as well as I usually have been before. The walks really killed me. I didn't give my defense anything to play with."
The Rangers, who entered their first series against the Yankees with the best record in the Majors at 13-3, got a rare poor outing from a starting pitcher -- the rotation was 10-1 with 2.54 ERA entering Monday night.
Holland was off from the start. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who is hitting like he's Holland's age again -- 25 -- started off the game with one of his four hits on an infield single. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out on Robinson Cano's single to right and Rodriguez's walk.
Holland bounced back with what looked like a big strikeout of Mark Teixeira, but the lefty couldn't retire Curtis Granderson, who blooped a single into center field to give New York a 2-0 lead.
Holland righted himself over the next three innings, but another full-count walk to start the fifth -- this one to No. 9 hitter Chris Stewart -- set up the decisive moment. It didn't help that the Rangers had Stewart picked off, but catcher Mike Napoli's throw to second was off line for an error.
The Yankees, as they so often do, made the Rangers pay. Jeter and Cano singled again around a Nick Swisher sacrifice fly to give New York a 3-1 lead. Rodriguez then crushed an 0-1 fastball for his home run, the 632nd of his career.
"It was poor execution," Holland said. "I was trying to overthrow a little bit. It was a mental thing. I didn't hit my spots. It was just one of those nights, I guess."
The Rangers did creep back into the game in the late innings. Josh Hamilton hit his eighth home run of the season, a 419-foot drive to right-center field to make it 7-2. Craig Gentry hit a two-run double in the seventh inning to push the Rangers to within 7-4.
But CC Sabathia, who entered Monday with an un-Sabathia-like 5.59 ERA, got the Yankees through eight innings and got the ball to closer Mariano Rivera, who recorded three easy outs.
"That's a really good team," Sabathia said. "They've been in the World Series the past two years, and they pretty much have the same squad coming back. It feels good to come in here, play well and get a win tonight."
The knee-jerk reaction to Monday night's loss would be to think back to Holland's on-again, off again first half last season. Holland was 6-4 with a 5.10 ERA over his first 17 starts in 2011 before going on a monster run that lasted through the postseason.
Rangers manager Ron Washington sees no similarities between Monday's outing and the Holland of last year's first half. The left-hander simply didn't have his best stuff.
"It's nothing even close to it," Washington said. "That's a good team over there, as far as stepping into that batter's box. They make you earn it. They can make a lot of pitchers look erratic. I like the way Derek fought. I like the way he battled. He'll be better for it."
And Holland, who can be a bit quirky with his bushy hair, mustache and Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonations, impressed by getting through six innings and taking the loss like a professional, standing in front of his locker and taking all questions after the game.
It's something of which team leader Michael Young and his teammates take notice.
"The Yankees strung together some hits," Young said. "He battled. They found a way to hit some tough pitches. He's getting to be a real professional now.
"The thing with Derek is, one, he knows he's really good, which is a great thing to have if you want to be an impact big leaguer," Young said. "When you're talking about him, knowing him, he's already champing at the bit for his next start. When he looks at this start, he'll look at things he wants to get better at. He'll make his really good adjustments, and he'll be ready to roll in five days. We look forward to playing behind him."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.