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Derek Holland has job of stopping skid

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Derek Holland was on the mound last Sunday in Chicago when this malaise started. He'll be asked to lift the Texas Rangers out of it to start a crucial three-game series tonight against the Los Angeles Angels.

Holland lasted just 3 1/3 innings and coughed up five runs on eight hits in that 10-0 loss, the first of four in the last five games that has seen the Rangers' seven-game lead a week ago whittled down to two.

The question for every Rangers fan, not to mention manager Ron Washington, is which Holland will show up? The one with a team-high four complete-game shutouts or the one that hasn't completed five innings five times, including twice this month?

"I expect Derek to go out there and keep us in the ballgame and give us a chance," Washington said. "That's all I expect."

Holland's last two starts against the Angels have had drastically different results. He couldn't hold an 8-3 lead at Anaheim in July, but just last week he came within an out of another complete game in a win also in Anaheim. However, Holland has two starts this month that have totaled five innings and nine earned runs.

"The main thing is not to worry about those kind of things. I have to go out there and make my pitches, that's all I should really worry about and don't think about stuff that has happened before," said Holland, who is 11-5, but owns a rotation-worst 4.42 ERA. "Especially going against Anaheim, these guys want to win. This is a big series. They're trying to take the title away from us and our job is to hold them down so we can keep the lead."

Holland has long admitted that his biggest problem is of the mental variety. He overthinks. He gets down on himself and looses focus.

He'll have to be in control going against an Angels team that has won six in a row and is coming off an 8-0 trouncing off the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. Holland will face strong right-hander Dan Haren (13-6, 2.98 ERA).

Tonight is a chance for Holland to build confidence in a tight race heading into the final month of the season. It's also a major test of his mindset.

"It's exciting," Holland said. 'It's [Rangers Ballpark] going to be packed. It's going to be a big game, but it's all about taking it one pitch at a time and going from there, and not getting too caught up in the hype because we're all trying to do the same thing and that is to win."