SAN FRANCISCO - After spending so many years with the Rangers, Derek Holland's first year away did not allow for bragging rights. He faced his old teammates twice last season while with the White Sox and allowed 12 earned runs in eight innings.
On Sunday, Holland gave up one earned in 6 1/3 innings. The Giants beat the Rangers 3-1.
"Now I can maybe say some stuff to them," he said afterward.
Holland joked with Adrian Beltre during the game, but otherwise was all business. This was a tough week for him, with a racially insensitive interview leading to two apologies and damaging his reputation among some in the fan base. After the win, Holland once again apologized for the "Intentional Talk" appearance. He also seemed genuinely emotional when discussing a loud ovation he received while walking off the mound.
"That meant a lot to me," Holland said, his voice lowering a bit. "For the fans to have my back and understand … to have that ovation, that felt really good."
Holland's outing continued a strong run in recent weeks. He has allowed two earned runs in his past three starts, although there's still a box he hopes to check before the end of the season. Holland has talked repeatedly about getting through seven innings. Twice this month he has gone 6 1/3, continuing a trend from earlier in the year.
"The curse of the seventh inning," he said, smiling. "We're going to try to pitch through that."
--- Holland pitched deep enough that manager Bruce Bochy didn't have to worry about his bullpen while giving Will Smith a day to rest. Tony Watson and Reyes Moronta got the ball to Mark Melancon, who was sharp in the ninth while picking up a save for a second consecutive day. This is as good a run as Melancon has had in well over a year.
"I think he's - more than anything - healthier, and his arm is bouncing back more," Bochy said. "I think he feels more like himself. You look at the stuff and the command and what goes with that is the confidence."
Smith has pitched well in the ninth and won't lose that role anytime soon, but it certainly would be a huge boost next season if Melancon can get all the way back to his old form. At the very least, that contract would become a bit easier for others to take on if the Giants at some point tear this down.
--- There was a strange replay review that appeared to end with the wrong result. Bochy spoke to one of the umpires here, but the call is ultimately made in New York, where they determined that Nomar Mazara was hit by a pitch.
"He just said he looked at it and they couldn't overturn it," Bochy said. "When you look at it, it just looks like (the ball) hit the bat."
--- In case you missed it, Dereck Rodriguez was the latest podcast guest. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. This was one of my favorite interviews of the season. Rodriguez went deep on what it was like to become a pitcher.