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The Texas Rangers' manager is animated, likable, and successful. Here's why he's also annoying.
Derek Holland took the mound on Sunday night as the Texas Rangers stopper, looking to wipe away the memory of a 16-7 loss the night before and even the World Series. It was a tough task, to be sure, but Holland made it look simple, pitching 8-1/3 innings of shutout ball while simply dominating the St. Louis Cardinals lineup. By the end of it all, the Rangers had a 4-0 win, evening the series heading into Game 5 on Monday.
How strong was Holland's performance? SB Nation Dallas breaks down Holland's start and, perhaps, how it will be remember in Rangers' history.
No one outside of Lance Berkman, by the way, had a hit; and Berkman's single was quickly erased by a double play. Even the mighty Albert Pujols -- who some probably argued should be pitched around after last night -- was handled relatively-effortlessly by Holland. It was a start that fit the definition of dominant, and without it the Rangers might well be staring down the barrel of elimination right now.
In short, on Sunday night, Derek Holland did to St. Louis baseball what DeMarco Murray did to St. Louis football, and now he will forever live as a legend in Texas postseason lore for his help.
Murray, by the way, ran all over the St. Louis Rams while setting a Dallas Cowboys single-game rushing record.
Holland allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out seven in the win. It was exactly what the Rangers needed as they faced the possibility of having to win three elimination games with a loss on Sunday night. Instead, the World Series is all-square again with both teams two wins away from taking home baseball's biggest prize.
The Texas Rangers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Sunday's Game 4 to tie the World Series, but they still won't have it easy the rest of the way.
The Texas Rangers bounced back from a 16-7 loss in Game 3 of the World Series with a dominant pitching performance by Derek Holland in a 4-0 win on Sunday night. With the win, the Rangers drew even with the St. Louis Cardinals, setting up a best-of-three game series for the title.
While it may not have been needed in the end -- Holland spun a gem and the Rangers pitched a shutout -- Mike Napoli left no doubt about the outcome with a deep drive in the sixth. Napoli was the first batter St. Louis reliever Mitchell Boggs faced, and the following happened on the first pitch:
Just like that, the 1-0 lead was a 4-0 lead. With the way the Rangers were pitching, it was more than enough of a cushion.
After the game, Boggs lamented the pitch Napoli deposited into the seats.
"I think he was ready to hit. I was aggressive, trying to go right at him, and one ran in on him," Boggs said. "I left it up and he was able to get out in front of it."
It matches up with what everyone watching saw. Boggs tried to throw a fastball by Napoli, and the Rangers first baseman was having none of it. The poor location of the pitch -- Boggs left it up and a bit in -- made it a meatball for Napoli, who easily turned on it and took a hack, sending it down the left field line and into the seats.
While the Rangers probably would've been able to escape with a 1-0 win, Napoli's home run essentially put it away. Holland powered through 8-1/3 innings without allowing a run before turning the ball over to Neftali Feliz, who closed the game out.
With the series even again, the Rangers and Cardinals get back on the field Monday in Game 5.
The Rangers are in the World Series because their bullpen picked up the slack for their starters throughout the playoffs, but Derek Holland came close to a complete-game shutout as Texas defeated St. Louis, 4-0, to take Game 4.
Derek Holland came into action Sunday night having thrown 13⅔ innings over four appearances in these playoffs. In those four appearances, he allowed 18 hits, six walks, five homers, and ten runs. He was probably lucky to have allowed just those ten runs. The Rangers wound up winning all four of the games in which Holland pitched, but, basically, Holland had not been helping out.
So one might've wondered how much confidence the Rangers had handing the ball to Holland for a pivotal Game 4. Not how much confidence they said they had - how much confidence they really had. There's no such thing as a World Series game that a team doesn't mind losing, but the Rangers really didn't need to lose after losing Game 3 on Saturday.
Well, it doesn't matter how much confidence they had in Holland before the game, because Holland's been nothing short of spectacular. Holland allowed zero runs in the first, and he's allowed zero runs in all innings after that. Mike Napoli gave him three additional runs of insurance in the bottom of the sixth, and Holland came out with a 1-2-3 seventh that featured a strikeout. He followed that with a 1-2-3 eighth that featured a pair of strikeouts.
His line now? Eight innings and zero runs, with 107 pitches. He has a walk and seven strikeouts. The Cardinals have all of two hits, which is fewer than Holland allowed in any of his four regular season complete-game shutouts.
There was a lot of concern after Game 3 that the Rangers' bullpen might've gotten worn down at a bad time. Holland has bought those guys some critical rest.
4-0 Rangers, bottom eight.
Is Mitchell Boggs one of Tony La Russa's best relief pitchers?
No, probably not. He pitched decently during the regular season; his best marker was allowing only four home runs in 61 innings. But Lance Lynn threw 47 pitches in Game 3 and Octavio Dotel threw 23, and so La Russa's options in Game 4 aren't what he might like.
So after La Russa allowed Edwin Jackson to start the bottom of the sixth inning and Jackson issued his sixth and seventh walks of the game to the first two batters he faced, out popped La Russa and in trotted Boggs from the bullpen.
Boggs had not pitched well in the postseason thus far. Nevertheless, Joe Buck intoned, "We specifically talked to La Russa before tonight's game and he thought Boggs showed him something last night. Threw hard, he's got electric stuff when he has command and he's into a jam here in the sixth."
McCarver: "La Russa telling us that if Boggs hits his spot, he's as good as anyone he has. His spot now is going to be down, for the double-play ball."
Boggs' first pitch was a 95-m.p.h. fastball, not down but up. And this happened:
That's another way of saying "hey the Cardinals didn't score."
The Cardinals entered the top of the sixth still trailing the Rangers 1-0. Edwin Jackson's pitch count was elevated, but Derek Holland's pitch count was far less elevated, as the Cardinals hadn't made him work. With 12 outs remaining, the Cards knew they were running out of time to score the runs against Holland that are sometimes so easy, sometimes so hard.
There are few things in baseball I love more than a bat flip after a walk. I don't know why - the batter has to get rid of the bat somehow - but it seems so ill-fitting. Especially a flip like that from a hitter like Punto. I guess for a hitter like Punto, a walk's a home run. "Look what I can do!"
Holland's at 79 pitches after six, with a walk and four strikeouts. And, of course, a shutout.
After shattering Ian Kinsler's bat with his second pitch of the game, Edwin Jackson allowed a single, a double, a four-pitch walk, and another walk before retiring the Rangers in the bottom of the first. He threw 25 pitches, and at no point did he look especially effective. Tony La Russa didn't use Jake Westbrook last night, and he was probably thinking of the possibility of an Edwin meltdown.
But Jackson did more than wriggle out of a tough first inning -- he gave the Cards five quality innings. Well, quality is in the eye of the beholder, but he did allow just the one run. He ended up walking five. I'm assuming he's coming out of the game because the #9 spot's coming up, and he'll probably get pulled for a pinch-hitter.
A "designated" hitter? Since when? How strange. But even though it's not official just yet, Jackson isn't going to be in this game for much longer. Considering how La Russa has managed his bullpen this postseason, I'd be stunned if Jackson came out for the sixth.
As far as #4 starters go, his line tonight is perfectly acceptable in a big picture kind of way. Here's one of Jackson's three strikeouts on the night, this one against Josh Hamilton:
Derek Holland probably isn't going to pitch a shutout tonight?
But it's not impossible.
Holland didn't have a great year, and is not a great pitcher. Not yet, anyway.
He did pitch some great games this season, though.
In fact, Holland pitched four shutouts, tied for the American League with James Shields.
Was he lucky to throw four shutouts? Undoubtedly. Jason Vargas threw three shutouts this season, and he's not exactly knocking down the gate to Cooperstown.
But Derek Holland's a pretty good pitcher, with a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio and perfectly fine numbers otherwise, when you consider where he does half his pitching.
He's averaging 13 pitches per inning, which isn't a lot. But if the Rangers are still ahead by a run or two in the ninth inning (if not the eighth), it's hard to figure Ron Washington won't go to his bullpen. But shutout or no, Holland might pitch the game of his life.
Saturday night's Game 3 finished 16-7, but one remembers that it was just 1-0 St. Louis going into the top of the fourth. This game was also 1-0 going into the top of the fourth, albeit 1-0 Texas, so one might've wondered if we were in for the same kind of imminent bloodbath.
Of course, that would've been a dumb thing to wonder. If you can't figure out why that would've been a dumb thing to wonder, you're dumb. Derek Holland faced the 2-3-4 hitters in the Cardinals' lineup and kept channeling the part of him that isn't terrible, retiring the side on 11 pitches. The big pitch was an elevated offspeed delivery to Albert Pujols that Pujols popped up in foul territory.
That took us to the bottom half of the fourth, and once again, there were almost some fireworks. With one out, Nelson Cruz lifted a fly ball deep to straightaway center that Jon Jay flagged down on the track. It was the Rangers' fourth fly out to the track in as many innings, and a sign that conditions aren't quite as hitter-friendly as they were last night. Edwin Jackson followed Cruz's fly out by issuing consecutive walks, but then Mitch Moreland basically got himself out by swinging at balls, so it's still 1-0 going to the fifth.
Last night, Albert Pujols put on one of the greatest postseason hitting displays in the history of baseball. He hit three home runs, all of them booming and spectacular.
On Sunday, he started his day like this:
That's unacceptable. That's like Marilyn Monroe sneezing with a mouthful of food. That's not Pujols. This is Pujols:
That's the kind of swing that happens before the Rapture or something, with the whole stadium getting beamed up to an astral plane. Tonight, though? Not much happening against Derek Holland, who looks like he's in a pretty good groove.
You kind of figured that after the runsplosion from last night that tonight would be a pitchers' duel just to mess with us. Mission accomplished, baseball! And through four innings, Albert Pujols has been quiet.
The Rangers have a 1-0 lead through three innings, and Derek Holland is in control so far. Forty-three pitches, 29 for strikes, with three strikeouts and one hit allowed. Edwin Jackson also settled down after his rocky first, and the game is comfortably into pitchers'-duel territory, just like last night.
Because you didn't ask for it, here's a list of the greatest 25th-round picks in draft history, arranged by Baseball Reference's WAR:
1972 - Mike Hargrove (30.0)
1994 - Michael Young (27.3) (Didn't sign)
1994 - Randy Wolf (23.7) (Didn't sign)
1980 - Darren Daulton (22.3)
1968 - Paul Splittorff (20.8)
1993 - Paul Lo Duca (15.4)
1995 - Brian Fuentes (11.3)
1991 - Ryan Franklin (11.2) (Didn't sign)
1982 - Jim Corsi (7.4)
2000 - Nate McClouth (7.4)
1969 - Andy Hassler (5.0)
1991 - Matt Mantei (4.4)
2002 - Kyle McClellan (3.1)
2006 - Derek Holland (1.9)
Holland is #14 with a bullet, so if the Rangers win a World Series game tonight, they'll have done so because the Giants liked Joseph Moos in the 25th round more than Holland. Of course, the Royals and Rockies would have done better to choose Holland with one of the first two overall picks in that 2006 draft. This is your weekly reminder that the draft is an inexact science.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, David Murphy hit a fly ball to the warning track.
Leading off the bottom of the second, Mike Napoli hit a fly ball to the warning track.
Mitch Moreland drove a fliner into center for the second out.
Ian Kinsler lined a single to left-center.
And then Kinsler unaccountably got picked off first base to end the inning.
Generally speaking, what's happened in previous innings, believe it or not, doesn't have much predictive effect. But it sure doesn't seem like Jackson's a great bet to give Tony La Russa the five innings he's hoping for in Game 3.
Four batters batted in the inning, and all four at bats featured interesting conclusions. The first at bat was by Matt Holliday, and he was called out on a very questionable strike:
The second at bat was by Lance Berkman, and he drilled a ringing double to right-center field.
The third at bat was by David Freese, and he was called out on a very questionable strike:
And the fourth at bat was by Yadier Molina, who ripped a sharp ground ball back up the middle. Off the bat, one's assumption was that the ball would get through and Berkman would score, but Ian Kinsler ranged way over to his right to not only keep the ball in the infield, but to throw Molina out. Kinsler didn't make a clean or strong through, but Molina's last name is Molina, so Kinsler didn't have to be perfect.
1-0 Texas, three half-innings in. Holland's at 32 pitches, and at least in the early going, he's got a favorable zone.
Derek Holland is known for two things: not being able to grow a mustache, and mixing in complete-game shutouts between a handful of poor outings. His upper-90s fastball from the left side is probably what he'll be known for more soon, but for now he drew the mustache/shut out card. There are worse things to be known for.
If he's a classic Jekyll/Hyde pitcher, though, the Rangers have to be impressed with how he threw in the first inning. Eleven pitches, eight for strikes, getting the second out of the inning by striking Allen Craig out with a nasty slider.
The breezy first inning looked even better in the bottom of the first, when the Rangers got a run to support Holland. Elvis Andrus singled off Edwin Jackson with one out, and he came around to score on a Josh Hamilton double into the right-field corner.
Jackson then walked Michael Young on four pitches, putting Young halfway to his April total for walks. Adrian Beltre struck out on a 57-foot breaking ball for the second out of the inning, but Jackson walked Nelson Cruz to load the bases. The inning ended when David Murphy lofted a fly ball into the left-field gap that was tracked down by Matt Holliday.
Twenty-five pitches for Jackson, four base runners, and just one run. Hope Jake Westbrook brought his cleats to the stadium.
In Saturday night's Game 3 of the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals scored 16 runs, collecting 15 hits and six walks. They began against a lefty starter, and Sunday, they begin against another lefty starter. Sounds like Tony La Russa should prepare the same exact starting lineup, right? Well, he did, almost.
The one difference between the Game 4 lineup and the Game 3 lineup? In Game 3, Ryan Theriot started at second base instead of Punto, and went 1-for-4 with a walk. I'm not sure why La Russa opted to make a change, given that Theriot has historically been the better player against southpaws, but I note that Punto is 3-for-5 in his career against Derek Holland, with a home run, while Theriot is 0-for-3. That's not a good enough reason, and Tony La Russa is smarter than that, but it is what it is. Wait, hold on a second, a home run? A real home run? Maybe that is a good enough reason. Nick Punto hit a home run!
Everything else is the same. Everything else is absurdly good. The switch-hitting Berkman is considerably worse from the right side than he is from the left side, but it's convenient to have him in there for when Ron Washington wants to go to the bullpen.
Is a big loss in the World Series any worse than a regular loss? What does history tell us?
The Rangers' backs are against the wall, down 2-1 at home. They'll throw out Derek Holland to face Edwin Jackson and try to even the series.
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