It was only a small step, but Derek Holland will take it.
The White Sox pitcher emphasized that Wednesday’s effort had its imperfections — he walked four batters and the White Sox lost.
But for the first time since the middle of June, Holland also was able to exit a start without ripping his hair out. Holland allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched. Given how nine of his previous 10 starts have gone, saving those follicles for another day is just fine. Holland made his first quality start since June 13, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Toronto Blue Jays from topping the White Sox 5-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Holland said. “The whole time me and (Don Cooper) and (Curt Hasler) have been talking about this is it’s going to be a process. It’s not just going to happen overnight. Granted, it’s been a while. It is only one start. I’m not going to sit here and get super excited. I still have to continue to keep pitching. Being consistent is what it’s all about.”
Holland has been consistent since the start of June, just not the way he’d prefer. Over his past 10 starts, the left-hander carried a 9.46 ERA, which ballooned his season mark from 2.37 to 5.42. He’d put 92 runners on base in that span and yielded 17 home runs over 45.2 innings.
The frustration of those efforts had caught up with Holland, who after his previous start on Friday night said he needed to step up his “s---.”
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Wednesday’s contest had a different feeling though as Holland worked in and out of traffic for six innings.
“Made a few adjustments,” said catcher Kevan Smith, who went 2-for-3 with a walk. “Just kind of attacked the hitters, two out of the first three strikes. Kind of expanded a few pitches because he gets in trouble a few times when he runs back over the plate. Just kind of varied where I was setting up on the plate and we just kept the upbeat pace and attacking hitters mentality and very successful today.”
Holland didn’t think he made vast changes to his game plan. He’s always focused on getting ground balls. But the left-hander did think he adhered better to the approach the White Sox wanted to take.
“It just felt like execution was better today than probably in the past few starts,” Holland said. “The main thing is, you can’t get caught up in those things. Whether you’re a groundball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher, whatever, you still have to go out there and keep your defense on their toes and let them make the plays happen. I felt like today I kept those guys on their toes where they needed to be and the execution was way better.”
Both Holland and the White Sox would love if this is the beginning of a trend. Healthy once again, Holland is headed for free agency after the season. But the White Sox would love to cash in before that and potentially trade the left-hander before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.
To get there, however, Holland would have to maintain the consistency he had over his first 10 starts when he posted a 2.37 ERA.
“Good outing,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Great outing, actually. Into his last inning, down 1-0, obviously gives up a solo homer to Pearce, but gosh, he did much better today. A lot of ground balls, made a lot of pitches when he needed to and gave us a chance.”