The education of Miles Mikolas continues

HOUSTON -- Texas Rangers right-hander Miles Mikolas got a visit in the second inning from his manager, Ron Washington.

It was just Washington and Mikolas on the mound alone.

No catcher.

No infielders.

Nobody but the two of them. It was as if they were on an island in the middle of downtown instead of the middle of Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.

Mikolas had walked Robbie Grossman and now he was down 2-0 to Jake Marisnick.

"Just making him understand he's got good stuff," Washington said of the conversation. "This is the way you hurt yourself, by putting people on the bag without them swinging the bat. If those guys swing the bat and get on base, you live with that. But you don't be giving up free passes when you have a 2-0 lead."

The Rangers lost that 2-0 lead and the game 4-3 to the Astros on Friday night.

So the education continues for another young pitcher, and on this night it was Mikolas, who didn't get the loss but couldn't get to a quality start because he threw 105 pitches in five innings.

At one point, Mikolas threw 61 pitches in Innings 2, 3 and 4.

"It could have been tougher, but he was able to make pitches when he had to," Washington said. "He just didn't have his command as well has he had in the past. Got into a lot of deep counts, on a lot of hitters, and he was in a lot of 0-2 counts and next thing you know, it's 3-2. He just didn't have the pitch to put him away and it cost him. He could have gone into the sixth or seventh inning, but he was gone in the fifth."

Houston's Chris Carter homered off Mikolas, cutting a 2-0 deficit to one in the fifth inning. Mikolas' 3-2 pitch was sent deep into left field over the bleachers that sit atop of the out-of-town scoreboard.

"Yeah, it was a full-count slider," Mikolas said. "At that point, I had a couple of walks and I really didn't want to walk him, and I think I tried to throw that pitch for a strike a little too much and I threw him a lot of sliders. So it was a pitch he had seen a few times, and he stayed on it pretty well. I was hoping he would have hit the rafters and [it would have] fallen for a double, not sure what the ruling on that is, but it got up there. It was a mistake pitch; guys up here live on mistakes, and he got a real good piece of that."

The 25-year-old Mikolas is still learning the craft. He spends the off time with pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins working on different pitches and how to get people out in different situations.

He has given up only two runs or fewer runs in three of his past four outings, and in four road starts, he has produced a 2.92 ERA.

In his first appearance against the Astros, on July 7, Mikolas was knocked around badly.

He gave up career highs in hits (12) and earned runs (nine) in a 12-7 loss. He went just 3 1/3 innings and threw 88 pitches before leaving with his team down 9-2.

"Obviously, my outing last time against these guys was very undesirable," he said.

The Rangers would like to see fewer undesirable efforts from their young pitchers. They expect more with each start, and when Mikolas was trying to be cute Friday night, Washington trotted out for a little chat.

It's one of several chats the manager is having these days with his young pitchers as this team looks ahead to the 2015 season.

"It's youth," Washington said of Mikolas. "Got to give him credit for the way he fought. It's youth, get that out of youth, you looking for those guys to figure out a way to be consistent and that's what he's trying to find. We felt good [about] him taking the mound [Friday], and I just wish he could have got some of those outs early when he was ahead of the hitters; it might have made a difference of him staying in the game a little longer. But it's what it is."