Extra Bases: Holland still feeling confident

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Derek Holland's last two starts haven't been as good as his first three starts. At least that's what the numbers say heading into Friday night's start against red hot Boston.

Four earned runs allowed in his first three. Nine allowed in his last two.

Holland struggled to harness a good fastball when he allowed six runs against the Angels last Monday. He was locked in a 1-0 game against Minnesota last Saturday before a two-run home run by Josh Willingham in the sixth inning provided separation for the Twins as the Rangers lost 7-2.

Much has been made of Holland not pitching around Willingham with first base open. Holland feels like he's continued to be sharp, but sometimes the opponent, whether it's the other pitcher or hitter, is just better that day.

"Everything's been great," Holland said. "I've been able to go at least seven innings. I'm doing everything I can. To be honest I feel like maybe every once in a while you've got to tip your cap to (Josh Willingham). I pitched around him for the most part but I left a pitch in the zone and he was ready for it.

"The whole thing is your trying to outlast that other pitcher. And with my philosophy not only do I want to start the game, I want to close it too. I want to be out there for all nine innings that I can. The whole objective is not to lose."

The biggest issue for Holland has been run support. The Rangers are scoring 2.34 runs per game for him, the third lowest total in the American League. It can't give him a good feeling that the Rangers have scored three runs in their last two games against Chicago.

And Boston comes in with baseball's best record at 20-8 and with hot hitters from former teammate Mike Napoli to David Ortiz. Holland said Thursday that he won't deviate from his normal approach of attacking hitters, just like with Willingham.

"I'm not changing anything," Holland said. "I feel like we're just as good of a ballclub as they are so why change anything of what we've done or what they've done. If I do my job and contain them and keep them down and keep the momentum on our side, they have to do the same exact thing."

1. Nathan's layoff: Joe Nathan last pitched a week ago in Minneosta, a long layoff for the Rangers' closer. Manager Ron Washington had a chance to pitch Nathan in the ninth inning Thursday but opted for Robbie Ross. Temperatures were in the low 40s at the time. It will be interesting to see if there is any rust for Nathan should he pitch in a closing situation this weekend.

2. Lefty, lefty: The Rangers face two more left-handers in the Boston series, making it five lefties in six games. They're 1-2 against southpaws on this homestand and get Felix Doubront and 5-0 Jon Lester this weekend.

3. In a pinch: The Rangers are 2-for-17 in pinch-hitting situations. Leonys Martin has both hits. He ended an 0-for-9 stretch for Rangers' pinch hitters with a leadoff single in the eighth inning Thursday.