If you ever attempted to explain to a less saber-savvy friend how ERA can be such a terrible proxy for actual pitcher performance, but couldn't conjure up the right example off the top of your head to illustrate your point, then Derek Holland has your back in full. In the absence of any relevant information esbeyond innings pitched (seven) and earned runs allowed (five), you would presume that he encountered several rough patches and really wasn't very good on the whole, but we do have the rest of that information, and what it all indicates a rather amazing confluence of good pitching, unfortunate hit distrirbution, exasperatingly flawed defense, and a monster homer-aiding jet stream.
I don't want to go into great detail on what rendered Holland successful, because, frankly, you probably know the answer already -- plus stuff melded with even solid-average command will generally yield good results, especially against an offense that batted career .251/.318/.316-hitting Chris Getz in the lead-off spot. If you demand a true indicator of his potency, glance at the nine strikeouts against two walks or the 14 total swinging strikes in 107 pitches (the former of which leaves me especially giddy, given my past focus on his strikeout-to-walk ratio before his season of developmental inertia in 2010), and if you're looking for an even brighter spot, consider glancing towards his actual worst inning of the night -- the seemingly cataclysmic five-run fourth inning.
A big part of the reason why confidence measurably slipped in Holland last season was the emotional maturity element, or the lack thereof; there were other concerns, sure, but his existing reputation as a somewhat boom-or-bust pitcher was not aided in any way by his propensity for losing it for no apparent reason, or his seeming problems in bouncing back and positively responding to adversity. Last night? After the single-walk-double-single-strikeout-home runs sequence that knotted the game at 5-5, Holland conferred with batterymate Yorvit Torrealba, identified the mechanical adjustment he wanted to make, and went back to war, all the while telling himself, "There's no more. That's all they get right there."
The next three scoreless innings tacked onto Holland's ledger are, if nothing else, encouraging. Ron Washington believes they reflect maturity building within Holland, an assessment with which I'm more inclined than not to concur. Again, if the intangible side of his game really is catching up with the rest of the package, look out.
There are two things I saw last night that I have a hard time recalling seeing at any point in the past, period, and those are (a) the wind, for which Holland deserves at least a partial free pass, because basically any ball that carried even medium-deep into right field stood an excellent chance of clearing the fence, and (b) a worse all-around defensive game by a Rangers first baseman, or a more exasperating all-around defensive alignment. Michael Young absolutely should be credited in full for his presently hot bat, and I will happily show him love for producing at a high clip offensively, but if the price of keeping him "engaged" by means of letting him play defense means that literally half of the defense is going to be rearranged, then that needs to be rethought.
Against a left-handed Joe Francis, Texas rolled out Nelson Cruz in left field (read: not his native position, and naturally not somewhere I'd expect him to be as capable as he is in right field), David Murphy in center field (bad idea), Mitch Moreland in right field (strong arm, mediocre range), and Young at first base ... and what a disaster it was. Balls passing him as he dove. Balls richocheting off his glove. Balls thrown by infielders not being caught. These were not excessively difficult plays, either. I get the "learning curve" argument on this issue, but that doesn't change the fact that Young doesn't seem even remotely close to figuring things out at first base, and that playing him there is apparently going to have a detrimental ripple effect on the outfield defense on some nights. I've already expressed what I'd like to see happen on that front, so I won't go any further in beating you down with that.
Not the best win, all things considered, but then there really isn't such a thing as a bad win.