Fitful fourth derails solid outing by Holland

Fitful fourth derails solid outing by Holland

OAKLAND -- Rangers starter Derek Holland retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced on Monday. The only batter to reach was on an error and he was wiped out by a double play.

Then Holland hit Billy Burns on the foot with a pitch with one out in the fourth and set up a two-run fourth inning for the Athletics. Normally that shouldn't have been too much to overcome but the Rangers managed just one run against rookie left-hander Sean Manaea in a 3-1 loss to the Athletics.

"Hitting the batter…that's probably one he'd like to have back," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.

That's especially true since it came in a 1-2 count. That was the problem Holland had in that inning during an otherwise promising outing.

"I was really upset at that," Holland said. "He's on top of the [plate] and I'm trying to go inside. I'm not changing the way I pitch but it was a mistake. It took off from there."

Burns was the first of five straight batters who combined to manufacture two runs for the Athletics. Holland had two strikes on all five but couldn't get the big out to stop the rally. Holland had nine two-strike pitches fouled off.

"The challenge was not being able to put hitters away," Banister said. "He was struggling that inning to find the out-pitch. All his other innings were good."

After Burns was hit by a pitch, Josh Reddick blooped a 2-2 sinker into shallow center for a single. Holland then got ahead of Danny Valencia with two quick strikes and ended up walking him to load the bases. Valencia fouled off three straight 2-2 pitches.

Khris Davis had a similar at-bat. Holland got ahead 1-2, but Davis fouled off four straight pitches. After taking a ball, Davis hit a sacrifice fly ball to deep right to drive home the first run.

"I was just trying to keep the ball down and get a double play," Holland said. "I was one pitch away."

Billy Butler added another run when he hit a soft liner on a 2-2 curve into center field for the second run. Holland finally got out of the inning by getting Marcus Semien on a grounder back to the mound.

Holland ended up going six innings, a significant improvement from two previous outings when he allowed a combined 16 runs over five innings. He allowed three hits and just the one walk. He also struck out just one.

Holland has struck out 4.73 batters per nine innings this season, down from his career average of 7.33. A strikeout could have made the difference in the fourth.

"The strikeouts are going to come," Holland said. "This was definitely better. A lot of positives I can take from that. I'm encouraged. I just need to keep plugging away."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.