There's no doubt the play of the game on Monday night at Angel Stadium belonged to the Rangers. Just about all others -- at least the ones that made the biggest difference -- belonged to the Angels as they walked away with a 7-4 victory over the Rangers on a cool autumn night in Southern California.
The Rangers also wasted a five-hit night by David Murphy. In doing so, their magic number remained at six for the second straight game. With Oakland defeating the White Sox, the Rangers lead the American League West by eight games with 13 to play.
"Obviously, I would rather have a win than anything," Murphy said. "We're trying to close this out and teams are not just going to hand it over to us. Everybody is playing hard and trying to win. We just need to step up our game a little bit. There is no need to hit the panic button. We're still in the driver's seat."
Or as manager Ron Washington said, "I'd rather be eight games in front than eight games behind."
The only other thing the Rangers could take from this game was their first pinch-hit home run in almost three years. Chris Davis delivered it in the eighth inning off of reliever Francisco Rodriguez, the Rangers' first pinch-hit home run since Hank Blalock on Sept. 26, 2007, also against the Angels.
All of that was lost against Holland's early struggles and the usual cast of September middle relievers unable to keep it close enough to make the Rangers' late-inning offensive noise amount to much.
Washington also wasn't happy that six of the Angels' seven runs came off of five key two-out hits. The Rangers, on the other hand, put together 13 hits, three walks and one hit batter but were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position. They left 12 men on base.
"We've got to eliminate so many two-out runs," Washington said. "That definitely hurt us and we definitely left too many guys on the bags."
The Rangers are 3-for-21 with 23 runners on base in their last two games, including Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Mariners.
"The difference tonight was we gave up a few runs," third baseman Michael Young said. "We would have liked to have capitalized on some opportunities, but as long as we keep getting out there, we'll get them in eventually."
Holland couldn't get through the fourth inning. He looked sharp for two innings, was saved by Borbon in the third and then gave up three runs before exiting with two outs in the fourth.
"The first two innings, I felt really good," Holland said. "Everything worked perfectly. Then my off-speed stuff kind of shut down and it really hurt me. It was easy for them to sit back and go after my fastball."
Last year, Holland threw a three-hit shutout against the Angels on Aug. 9 in Anaheim. That remains the apex of his career as a Major League starter.
Holland, going back to last season, was 5-6 with a 4.52 ERA in his first 14 starts in the Major Leagues. Since then, he is 4-10 with a 7.25 ERA in his last 16 starts. He won his first two starts back in May before ending up on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
Over his last seven Major League starts, he is 1-4 with a 5.64 ERA as he still struggles to find command and confidence in the three pitches needed to be a successful Major League starter. The off-speed stuff just isn't there for extended periods of time.
"It might have been the best game we had pitched against us all year last year," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He pitched a terrific game. He's had his struggles this year. Just seeing him from afar, his stuff looked good tonight. I thought we did a good job in the batter's box."
The game was tied at 1 into the fourth when Holland walked Brandon Wood with one out and Jeff Mathis brought him home with a double to right-center. Holland retired Peter Bourjos on a fly to deep right before a couple of strange plays brought home two more runs.
Howard Kendrick hit a wicked grounder back up the middle that hit Holland in his foot and ricocheted out into left field. The run scored and Kendrick hustled to second with a double. Bobby Abreu followed with a high fly deep down the right-field line. Nelson Cruz raced over there but over-ran the ball, and it dropped just behind him on the warning track for another run-scoring double that made it 4-1.
That was the end of Holland's night.
"He just didn't have the command he's capable of having," Washington said. "The thing that got him in trouble is he couldn't get that third out. If he gets that third out, he could have gone much deeper in the game."