Derek Holland continues to mature

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Derek Holland has admired Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish for carrying the starting rotation this year, and he couldn't have picked a better time to join them.

For the fourth straight start, Holland went seven innings and allowed no more than two runs, guiding the Josh Hamilton- and Adrian Beltre-less Texas Rangers to an important 6-2 victory against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night. His last loss came in July -- a stretch of nine consecutive outings -- and Holland turned in his sixth straight quality start.

"The main thing was being able to keep my defense on its toes," said Holland, who allowed two runs and six hits in seven frames. "We didn't have Hamilton, we didn't have Beltre, so I knew that if I made my pitches., [the defense] would be ready to make plays."

Holland did something he had failed to do twice this year: He beat the Angels. The left-hander had been 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA against the Halos, with both losses coming to Cy Young contender Jered Weaver.

But, now, he's an entirely different pitcher than he was two months ago.

"I feel like he's learned how to pitch," said catcher Geovany Soto, whose two-run blast in the eighth all but sealed the win. "He's been executing."

The Rangers -- with Harrison (17-9, 3.26 ERA) and Darvish (15-9, 4.02 ERA) and now Holland (11-6, 4.42) -- appear to possess a three-headed monster, just in time for the stretch run.

"It's a good time to get things going," Holland said. "It really sucked -- the injuries that happened to me and trying to bounce back. I'm really happy with my teammates -- Harrison and Darvish have been consistently carrying the starting rotation. I feel like it's my time to get things going. I've got to step up and I feel like I've done a really good job of that this past month."

Said Texas manager Ron Washington: "We needed a great performance and he gave us a great performance. We never doubted that he'd bounce back."

Holland's pitch count was approaching triple digits when Washington sent him out for the seventh inning. Alberto Callaspo, who deposited Holland's biggest mistake of the night over the left field fence for a two-run homer than pulled the Angels to within 3-2, was due up second in the seventh.

Washington didn't hesitate.

"He still looked like he had good zip on everything," Washington said. "We still had protection behind him in case he faltered, but we were standing there wanting him to get us through seven innings."

Alexi Ogando was up in the bullpen but only to toss the ball casually, Washington said. Koji Uehara was next to him, warming in case something happened.

"If [Holland] didn't get Vernon Wells, he wouldn't have faced Callaspo," Washington said. "If he didn't get Callaspo, he wouldn't have faced [Mark] Trumbo."

Nothing happened, and there was no need to worry. Wells fouled out down the first-base line, Callaspo flew to center and Trumbo popped out to the right side. Holland needed only 10 pitches to get through the seventh.

"Last year down the stretch, he got strong and it looks like he's strong again this year," Washington said. "He's starting to hit his spots and using all of his pitches. He's certainly commanding the baseball more than he was earlier. With the success he's having, confidence has to grow."