Rangers win critical game using five pitchers

It may not have been the ideal way to win, but the Rangers take out the A's to widen their AL West lead.

ARLINGTON, Texas – Using five pitchers out of the bullpen wasn't the ideal way for the Rangers start to an important, four-game series with Oakland.

Starter Derek Holland took the blame for that after lasting just three innings Monday. Holland was also the bullpen's biggest fan after the Rangers' 5-4 comeback win.

"I didn't do my part today," Holland said. "I was very disappointed with the way I pitched and the bullpen stepped up big time. They held it down so that the offense could come back and get us a win."

A setback for Holland turned into a showcase for the bullpen, especially Roy Oswalt who hadn't pitched since Sept. 9.

After Oakland grabbed a 3-1 lead, Oswalt pitched two shutout innings, allowing just one hit, before handing the ball to Robbie Ross.

"Roy was big, because at that point they had momentum on their side," designated hitter Michael Young said. "So Roy came in and threw two really strong innings, allowed us to maybe chip away a little offensively. That was definitely big."

Although Oswalt was cruising, manager Ron Washington didn't want to use him more than two innings since it was his first appearance after sitting out with a forearm strain.

"He's a veteran, he was ready to pitch," Washington said. "He gave us two quality innings, held the ballgame right there for us."

While Ross struggled in the sixth and gave up a run on three hits, Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan each put up zeroes in the final three innings. Oakland's only baserunners in the final three frames were a pair of walks, one each from Adams and Nathan.

However, the poor outing from Holland came at a bad time in regards to division race as well as for Holland personally.

Holland (11-6, 4.50) gave up a two-run, 416-foot homer to Josh Donaldson in the second inning, then a 414-foot solo shot to Yeonis Cespedes in the third inning. The Cespedes homer was on an 0-2 pitch.

In all, Holland allowed four hits and walked two. He managed four strikeouts but had thrown 77 pitches (44 strikes) in three innings.

"Derek just didn't seem like he was on tonight," Washington said. "He didn't have his secondary stuff. He threw close to 80 pitches in three innings.

"Derek just didn't have it. Next time out he'll be better."

The Rangers have to hope so with the postseason approaching and decisions being made about the rotation. For Holland, it was just an off night rather than a major setback in his development.

"I'm not looking at it as a setback at all," Holland said. "It's one of those days I couldn't throw the ball where it needed to go. I was very erratic and wild. But you have one of those days, and I tried to make the adjustments and it just wasn't happening."

Holland said he didn't notice any problems warming up in the bullpen, but noticed his pitches were up once the game started and tried to adjust.

"Once I tried to get down, I started being erratic," Holland said. "I didn't throw anything into the spots except for inside. I locked up a couple of guys, but other than that, you can't just sit in one spot. You've got to move around. Also if you're pitching behind [in the count], it's not good to go inside when you're behind. They took advantage of me."

Before Monday's off night, Holland had gone at least seven innings and allowed two-or-fewer runs in his last four starts. He won Wednesday with a solid performance against the Angels.

His recent stretch of good outings came after sitting out a month in June and July with elbow fatigue.

"I feel like I've made some big ground for coming off the DL," Holland said. "It's not easy to come off the DL and try to step up into a situation with the role that we have now. I feel like I did a strong job of that and I feel like also I've made some big strides."

Holland also acknowledged that his bad starts seem to be magnified by fans and media after struggling to find consistency since coming up as a 22-year-old in 2009. His fun-loving, goofy antics off the field have also made him a target when things go bad.

"Last time I checked I've been pitching pretty good for over a month now, so I think I'm all right," Holland said. "I'm not going to sit here and dwell on this. I'm a better pitcher than that."

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire