For the second time in three big league appearances, Holland was called on in relief to pitch with the bases loaded, this time to face as burly a slugger as they come, White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome, with two outs in the top of the sixth inning and the Rangers nursing a 3-0 lead.
Rangers starter Scott Feldman, who had retired 17 of the first 18 he faced, had only thrown 77 pitches in his second start in place of Kris Benson. Feldman had struck out Thome in the fourth. Feldman was showing no signs of fatigue, giving up a couple of weak hits and walking Carlos Quentin after being too careful with him with first base open and Thome on deck.
But for the Rangers, the sixth inning was going to come down to Holland and Thome. Rangers manager Ron Washington said so several times in his postgame press conference, concerned that Feldman was going through the Chicago lineup for the third time, with all three White Sox reaching so far.
"I respect Thome," Washington said. "I thought Holland could get him. It didn't happen."
Holland was just off on his location, leaving a fastball up for Thome, who drilled it off the left-center-field fence, missing a home run by a few feet. Thome's ringing double cleared the bases, tying the game at 3.
The White Sox wound up beating Holland in the top of the seventh, scoring again with two outs. Scott Podsednik had an infield single. Holland picked Podsednik off, but the inning stayed alive when Holland was called for a balk. Leadoff hitter Chris Getz then tripled to center field for a 4-3 lead.
It spoiled a strong start by Feldman, who gave up three two-out hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"I let him down," Holland said.
The Rangers produced their runs in the early innings. Ian Kinsler had a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, the seventh leadoff homer of his career, one shy of the team record.
The Rangers made it 3-0 in the third as Kinsler had a sacrifice fly and Andruw Jones a run-scoring double.
Meanwhile, Feldman retired the first 11 men he faced before Quentin dumped in a single in front of diving center fielder Marlon Byrd.
Feldman bounced back to get the next six White Sox batters, including the first two outs in the top of the sixth before Getz and Fields nicked him for singles. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux visited the mound, but only to talk about how to approach Quentin.
Feldman didn't pitch to Quentin like it was the last batter he would face. He admitted to being too careful with first base open, working the count full before missing badly on a two-seam fastball to load the bases.
"I wasn't going to let him beat me," Feldman said. "It was a full count. I would have liked to have thrown a strike there."
Holland was told to crank it up in the bullpen with Fields up, meaning he needed to get ready to face Thome. Holland admitted to being a little nervous as he came onto the field, knowing Thome was waiting.
"I grew up watching him play," Holland said.
Holland actually blew a fastball by Thome on the first pitch. At that point the nerves were gone. He tried another fastball. Thome ripped it in typical Thome fashion, a line drive to left-center.
"Down, that's were I wanted it," Holland said. "I left it up a little bit. He beat me."
In the postgame aftermath, both pitchers talked about being ready for more.
"I didn't want to come out," Feldman said. "I have a lot of faith in Holland and the bullpen. Maybe next time I'll get a chance against Thome."
For Holland, he might have gone down by knockout to Thome, but he said this baptism under fire is the only way to go now that he's in the big leagues.
"I'm glad they do [trust me]," Holland said. "I appreciate the confidence that they have in me."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.