the World Series

Are the Florida Panthers' days numbered?

Do bears poop in woods? Do the San Francisco Giants win the World Series in even-numbered years? Is the Pope Catholic? Are the Florida Panthers a terrible NHL team?

Obviously, the answer to all of those is yes.

For the Florida Panthers, struggling on the ice is nothing new. They’re currently 14th in the Eastern Conference with seven points in seven games. They have scored exactly 10 goals as a team which is only one more than the nine goals that league leaders Corey Perry and Rick Nash have. But perhaps most notably, the Panthers have yet to win a game at home.

And home for the Panthers has not been so welcoming this season. In their second home game, they set a franchise record low for attendance at 7,311. Photos taken that night illustrated the scantily attended NHL game that looked more like a local club hockey meet-up. But one night doesn’t explain the attendance problems of an entire team, does it?

Well, in the case of the Florida Panthers, they have been experiencing attendance woes for the past few years. For the last three years, they have averaged an attendance of 15,932 that puts them squarely within the bottom ten teams of the NHL. These attendance numbers could just be bad attendance numbers with no meaning attached to them. However, thanks to a lack of Sunbelt support for the NHL in the United States and the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, there is some fear that the Florida Panthers could be relocated.

This relocation fear is very real. Since the Florida Panthers were established in 1993, they have made the playoffs only four times and have finished with a winning record just eight times in 19 seasons to date. So, they have an ugly history and they have poor attendance, which makes them a prime contender to move to a Canadian city that is thirsty for an NHL team. 

Maybe, their potential relocation would be for the best. Although they have some exceptional young talent highlighted by former Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau and 2014 first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad, the Panthers have struggled. Despite the young talent and the team’s veteran additions from the off-season, the Panthers will most likely not make the playoffs, making it three years in a row.

The Florida Panthers days as an NHL team are numbered.

Senior Taylor Thom is the unquestioned leader of this year's Longhorn squad. Texas will rely on Thom's big bat to drive in runs on the field, and, with three years of collegiate experience, expert her to mentor some of the younger players. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

As a junior at Vista Ridge high school in Cedar Park, Taylor Thom led her team to the 2009 UIL State Semifinal game at Red McCombs Field in Austin. The Lady Rangers lost 3-0 to Pearland in a close contest.

Fast-forward four years to 2013 when Thom found herself in the postseason at the College World Series in a semifinal matchup against No. 1 Oklahoma. The Longhorns would lose that game 10-2 to the Sooners, who would go on to beat Tennessee and become the World Series champions. 

“Going to the World Series is still my favorite team memory,” Thom said.

Now, preparing for her final campaign as a Longhorn, Thom looks to build on a record-setting junior season with a new supporting cast of young faces. One of just four seniors on a team that includes 13 underclassmen, Thom is the undisputed veteran with more experience to speak of than several other players combined. This past summer, Thom was a member of the 2013 USA Women’s National Team, where she competed on the international stage — as well as in the World Cup — with former teammate Taylor Hoagland. 

“It was amazing getting to play with such incredible softball players,” Thom said. “Traveling all over the country and the world. It was such a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Recently named to the preseason Top 50 “Watch List” for the 2014 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award, Thom ranks near the top in nearly every major category in the Texas records book. She currently sits fourth in runs batted in (135), seventh in doubles (37), eighth in runs scored (122) and ninth in home runs (28). In her final year as a Longhorn, Thom will look to match her historic senior season at Vista Ridge where she posted a .528 batting average with 50 runs scored, 21 runs batted in, 15 doubles and 34 stolen bases.

Coming off a team-high 15-home-run season, the hard-hitting shortstop has the ability to change the game with one swing of the bat and is always a threat at the plate. 

Perhaps the most decorated player on the team, Thom is confident about the prospects of this year’s group.

“We definitely lost some key players last year, but we have some good ones that are going to be able and come in and fill that hole that needs to be filled,” Thom said. “I think we are looking great and I am excited to see how our first game against LSU goes.”

Whether the Longhorns can return to the World Series remains to be seen, as a tough conference schedule — which includes No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 16 Baylor — lies ahead. But if Thom’s senior year at Vista Ridge is any indication, her best season is still ahead of her.  

The Detroit Tigers took game four against the New York Yankees 8-1, ending the series and propelling the Tigers to the World Series. With the win the Tigers also claimed the American League Penant. This will be their first trip to the World Series since 2006, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1. Detroit will face the winner of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals are currently leading the NLCS, 3-1, against the San Francisco Giants.

— Sara Beth Purdy

 

The Rangers’ newly-acquired pitcher Yu Darvish carried a hefty price tag for teams wanting to sign him this offseason.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Spring training has come to a close and the Texas Rangers are taking aim at finishing a job they came within inches of finishing last October.

In 2011, the Rangers roared through the regular season, posting a franchise best 96 wins and winning the American League West by a monstrous 10 games. After a bumpy start to the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rangers turned it around, taking the series in four games. They rolled through the Tigers in the American League Championship Series and returned to the World Series for a second consecutive season. After a titillating series with the Cardinals in the Fall Classic, the Rangers found themselves a single strike away from taking the throne on two separate occasions, before conceding the series in the seventh game in heart-wrenching fashion.

Now, the Rangers open 2012 hoping to finish the job once and for all.

It’s mostly familiar faces returning for the Rangers, but a busy winter has lead to a few changes heading into the new campaign. Texas returns everyone from the most potent lineup in all of baseball a season ago, but there is a new face in the rotation. 2011 opening day starter and All-Star pitcher C.J. Wilson went Benedict Arnold on the Rangers in the offseason, inking a five-year deal with the rival Angels and leaving a big void in the pitching staff. In his place steps Japanese phenom Yu Darvish, who at the ripe age of 25 has more accolades to his name than most American pitchers will see in a career.

Darvish did not come cheap, as the Rangers had to post $51 million just for the right to negotiate with the 6-foot-5 right-hander. After a month of negotiating, the Rangers finally signed Darvish to a six-year, $60 million deal in hopes of his past success translating abroad.

Darvish was not the only impactful pitcher the Rangers signed in the offseason. After blowing the save in game six of the World Series, the Rangers decided it was time for closer Neftali Feliz to try his hand in the starting rotation. His replacement is former Twins closer Joe Nathan, who comes to Arlington with a career 89 percent save percentage, good for second all-time in the history of baseball. Nathan was robbed of his 2010 season with Tommy John surgery, and had a lackluster return in the first half of 2011. The second half was more telling as Nathan returned to form, and the Rangers are hoping he can reclaim his perch atop the closing elite.

The Rangers enter the new season as a favorite to return to the World Series again, but the path to the top got a bit murkier since baseball last convened. The Tigers added slugger Prince Fielder to their deep lineup. The Angels added arguably the best hitter in the game in Albert Pujols, along with the aforementioned Wilson to a rotation that was already considered one of the best in baseball.

Everyone in baseball knows the Rangers are going to slug with the best of ’em. If Darvish can fill the void left by Wilson and Derek Holland can continue his emergence as a frontline starter, the Rangers will be in fine shape to make another deep postseason run.

Printed on Thursday, April 5, 2012 as: Rangers reloading, seeking first title

In this Oct. 19 photo, Reginald Rutledge displays his model of the Rangers Ballpark in his home backyard in Arlington. $12 million worth of renovations to the ballpark’s bullpen will take place in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas — Visiting managers will soon have an unobstructed view into their bullpen at Rangers Ballpark.

A reconfigured bullpen is among nearly $12 million in stadium upgrades the Rangers announced Thursday. The plans were in the works before the bullpen phone foul-up for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in Game 5 of the World Series.

The entire plaza in center field is being redone. A play area for kids that had taken up most of the plaza is being moved to an indoor location nearby. There will be a new indoor seating area, a Rangers-themed restaurant/sports bar and four new concession areas. Bleachers will be replaced by individual seats.

The changes, including changing the orientation of the bullpen to run parallel to the left-center field fence, are scheduled to be completed before the 2012 season opener for the two-time defending American League champions.

The Rangers had previously announced plans to make all protective railings along front-row seats above field level at the stadium a uniform height of 42 inches. Some rails will be raised as much as a foot after a firefighter’s fatal fall in July when he reached out to catch a ball tossed his way. That project is also expected to be completed before the April 6 home opener.

Team CEO Nolan Ryan said the changes in center field will add more concessions and entertainment options and provide ways to cool off in the summer months at the stadium that opened in 1994. The Rangers set an attendance record of 2,946,949 this season despite 27 games when the temperature was 100 degrees or higher at first pitch.

“We have a commitment to our fans to provide the finest ballpark experience,” said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is part of the ownership group that acquired the team in August 2010. “This project represents the most extensive renovation in the history of the park and we plan to make further upgrades in the coming years.”

Pitchers in the visitor’s bullpen in left-center would have their backs to the field behind a barrier when warming up during games. With that setup, it was hard if not impossible to see from the visitor’s dugout along the third-base line.

In Game 5 of the World Series on Oct. 24, there was a miscommunication between La Russa and a coach on the bullpen phone about who should be warming up. All the confusion came during the decisive eighth inning when the Rangers went ahead 4-2. Texas ended up winning to take a series lead before the Cardinals won both games in St. Louis to claim the World Series championship.

Aluminum bleacher seats on the left and right field sides of the grassy area in straightaway center will be replaced by individual seats. The capacity in the area will decrease from 1,075 to 424, but there will also be covered deck areas with open seating and tables on either side of the new indoor seating area that will be known as the Batter’s Eye Club.

Printed on Friday, November 4, 2011 as: Rangers Ballpark will undergo changes

2011 World Series

St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese hits a two-run triple off a pitch from Texas Rangers' Neftali Feliz during the ninth inning of Game 6 of baseball's World Series on Thursday in St. Louis.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — David Freese homered to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals forced the World Series to a Game 7 by rallying from two-run deficits against the Texas Rangers in the 9th and 10th on Thursday night.

Freese hit a two-run triple just over a leaping Nelson Cruz to tie the score 7-7 in the ninth inning against Neftali Feliz. Then, after Josh Hamilton put Texas ahead with a two-run homer in the 10th off Jason Motte, Ryan Theriot hit an RBI groundout in the bottom half and Lance Berkman tied it 9-9 with a single. Freese’s shot to center came off Mark Lowe.

Game 7 is Friday night.

Texas had built a 7-4 lead in the seventh when Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit consecutive home runs off Lance Lynn, and Ian Kinsler added an RBI single off Octavio Dotel.
Allen Craig’s second homer of the Series cut the gap in the eighth against Derek Holland.

In the ninth, Albert Pujols doubled with one out off Feliz and Berkman walked on four pitches.

Craig took a called third strike, and Freese fell behind in the count 1-2. He sliced an opposite-field drive, and when Cruz jumped, the crowd of 47,315 at Busch Stadium couldn’t tell at first whether he caught it.

Feliz then retired Yadier Molina on a flyout to right, sending the game to extra innings.

With Texas ahead 3-2 in the Series and one win from its first title, the Rangers also wasted 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 leads. The Cardinals made three errors in a Series game for the first time since 1943, and Rangers first baseman Michael Young made two, with each team allowing two unearned runs.
Matt Holliday was picked off in the sixth at third base by catcher Mike Napoli, thwarting the Cardinals’ attempt to go ahead, and he had to leave the game because of a bruised right pinkie.

Hamilton’s RBI single had put the Rangers ahead in the first off Jaime Garcia, Berkman’s two-run homer gave the Cardinals the lead in the bottom half and Kinsler’s run-scoring double tied it 2-all in the third.

Cruz reached when Holliday dropped a flyball leading off the fourth and came home when Napoli singled for his 10th RBI of the Series. Berkman then got to first on a throwing error by Young starting the bottom half and scored on Molina’s grounder.

Freese dropped Hamilton’s popup to third leading off the fifth, and Young lined a pitch from Fernando Salas to the gap in left-center. An error by Young on Holliday’s sixth-inning grounder was followed by three straight walks, including two by Alexi Ogando.

Colby Lewis allowed four runs — two earned — and three hits in 5 1-3 innings.

Texas got far better swings against Garcia than it did in Game 2, when he allowed three hits in six shutout innings. This time, he gave up five hits and two walks, throwing 59 pitches, and seven of the first 13 Texas batters reached base.

Just 24 of the 61 previous teams with 3-2 leads won Game 6, but 41 of those 61 teams went on to win the title. Eighteen teams trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven format bounced back for championships, including 12 that swept the last two games at home.

In an effort to provide more production behind Pujols, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa moved Berkman to cleanup and dropped slumping Holliday down to fifth.
Rangers manager Ron Washington moved the hot-hitting Napoli up one spot to seventh and had Craig Gentry hitting eighth, as he did in Game 2.

Four Cardinals Hall of Famers, wearing cardinal red sports jackets, stood at home plate before the game. Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith. And then the greatest Cardinals player, 90-year-old Stan Musial, was driven from the right-field corner to the plate in a golf cart. Wearing a red sweater and Cardinals warmup jacket, he greeted his fellow Hall of Famers and watched 2006 Series MVP David Eckstein throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Texas went ahead 10 pitches in. After starting with a called strike, Garcia walked Kinsler on four straight pitches, and Elvis Andrus’ hit-and-run single put runners at the corners. Hamilton pulled the next pitch into right field for a single and his third RBI of the Series.

Garcia recovered to strike out Young and Beltre, then got Cruz to hit into an inning-ending forceout on his 23rd pitch.
Lewis quickly gave back the lead. Skip Schumaker, moved up from eighth in the batting order to second, singled with one out in the bottom half. Pujols flied out on the next pitch. Berkman also swung at the first pitch, sending an 89 mph offering over the center-field wall.

Napoli walked leading off the second and Gentry singled him to second. Lewis bunted directly at Freese, who started a rare 5-6-4 double play. Shortstop Rafael Furcal took the throw at third for the force, then threw to second baseman Nick Punto covering first.

Kinsler followed with a ground-rule double that hopped over the left-field fence, tying the score 2-all. La Russa then had Mitchell Boggs start warming up after Garcia had thrown just 42 pitches to 10 batters,

Andrus hit an inning-ending lineout to right that Berkman slightly misjudged and caught with a jump.

Schumaker and Pujols flied out just in front of the warning track in the third. Other than his 5-for-6, three-homer, six-RBI performance in Game 3, Pujols is 1 for 17.

St. Louis, tied for fourth in the majors in errors during the regular season, started to get sloppy in the fourth. Cruz led off with a fly to short left, where Holliday called for Furcal to take it, only for the shortstop to back off. The ball then bounced off Holliday’s glove for a two-base error.

Napoli sliced a single down the right-field line, kicking up chalk from the foul line, to put Texas ahead 3-2. After Gentry struck out, Lewis bunted to Pujols, who threw to second in time for a forceout, but first base umpire Jerry Layne called the ball foul. Lewis bunted the next pitch to Salas, who threw the ball into center field. Not sure whether to slide, Napoli went in awkwardly and turned his left ankle. He stayed in, but the base was later replaced.

Salas escaped further trouble by throwing a called third strike past Kinsler and retiring Andrus on a fly to left that turned Holliday around in the wind.

Berkman led off with a grounder to Young, who bobbled it and made a throw that pulled Lewis off the base for an error on the first baseman. Holliday walked for the second time, and Furcal bounced into a forceout to second, with Andrus’ throw to first for a double play way high and bouncing off a screen near the dugout. Molina followed with a grounder to third that drove in his sixth run of the Series.

After Young’s double, Napoli was intentionally walked with two outs, and pinch-hitter David Murphy walked to load the bases. While Yorvit Torrealba was in the on-deck circle to hit, Washington left Lewis in the game, and he struck out in three pitches.

Berkman reached on an infield hit. Young then picked up Holliday’s grounder, thought about throwing to second and allowed the ball to pop free. Berkman then just beat him to the bag.

Walks to Freese and Molina forced in a run, and Napoli picked off Holliday at third, with Holliday bruising his right pinkie and leaving the game. After a wild pitch, Punto walked and Holland retired Jon Jay on a comebacker.

The grounds crew at Busch Stadium in St. Louis pulls a tarp over the playing field on Wednesday. A wet forecast prompted Major League Baseball to postpone Game 6 of the World Series.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Game 6 of the World Series was postponed Wednesday because of a wet forecast, delaying the Texas Rangers’ bid to clinch their first championship.

Major League Baseball announced the decision about four-and-a-half hours before the Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals were set to play. At the time, no rain had fallen at Busch Stadium, but heavy precipitation was expected.

Texas leads the Series 3-2. Game 6 was rescheduled for Thursday night at 8:05 p.m. EDT. If Game 7 is necessary, it will be played Friday night.

“Because of the forecast, there was no reason to wait any longer,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations.

Torre said he told managers Ron Washington of Texas and Tony La Russa of St. Louis on Tuesday that if the forecast didn’t change, baseball would postpone it early.

Rain was in “every forecast we had probably for the last three days,” Torre said at a news conference. “They were all consistent there was going to be rain during the game.”

Looking at Commissioner Bud Selig, Torre asked, “Do you want to play in rain?”

Colby Lewis had been set to start for Texas, with Jaime Garcia ready to go for the Cardinals.

If anything, the extra day may lead to more intrigue over who might pitch for St. Louis should the Series go to a Game 7 for the first time since 2002. Washington already has said Matt Harrison would start if the Series goes that far.

The forecast for Thursday was much better — clear enough with a game-time temperature in the low 50s.

Rain has hovered over the majors all year with more than 50 washouts, baseball’s highest total since 1997.

This was the first Series rainout since 2008 at Philadelphia. That year, Tampa Bay and the Phillies were tied in the sixth inning when rain and snow turned the field into a quagmire, forcing a suspension. It rained the next day too, and the game finally resumed two days later, with the Phillies taking the crown.

Because of the debate about how to handle that situation, MLB adopted a rule a few months later mandating that any postseason game stopped in progress would be resumed at the point of suspension, rather than being postponed and
started over.

Before that, the previous Series rainout came at Busch Stadium, when Game 4 between Detroit and the Cardinals was pushed back by a day.

A few hundred fans already were milling outside Busch Stadium when the Rangers-Cardinals game was called. The tarp was on the field at the time. Later, about a dozen St. Louis players came out to toss around balls in right field.

Bad weather has lingered throughout the big leagues since opening day. Even before that actually, as the Milwaukee Brewers and Reds worked out in snow flurries a day before their March 31 opener at Cincinnati.

Wicked weather intruded earlier in this postseason, too. So did the threat of storms.

A game in the AL championship series between Detroit and Texas was postponed for a day because of a dicey forecast. The players left Rangers Ballpark and went home — the rain, however, never came.

The opener of the AL playoff series between Detroit and New York was halted after one-and-a-half innings by showers that lasted all night. The game at Yankee Stadium was suspended and picked up the next day at the point when it was stopped.

The only other suspension in postseason history was that Rays-Phillies game in 2008.

Baseball began the playoffs a week earlier this year than last season, intending to have the World Series conclude before November. MLB also hoped the adjustment could help avoid a chilly finish for the championship. It was in the 40s and raw last week for Game 1.

It was in the 70s and clear at Busch Stadium on Tuesday. A perfect night to play, but it was a travel day for Texas and St. Louis. Washington was aware of the shaky forecast.

“If it’s possible we can play, of course we want to play. You don’t want to sit down. We’re here to play baseball,” he said Tuesday. “But if the forecast says that it’s going to be bad weather and we’re going to play and start and stop ... We want to make sure the conditions are correct, and if we have to wait a day, then we have to wait a day.”

Printed on Thursday, October 27, 2011 as: Wet forecast places Game 6 on hold

2011 World Series

Computer Science Sophomore Will Conklin watches the World Series at Pluckers on Rio Grande Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

It was all smiles in Pluckers on Monday night as the Rangers took Game 5 in the World Series. The wing restaurant and bar on Rio Grande Street has always been a popular hangout spot to watch the games, but has become even more crowded with Texas in the World Series. Rangers shirts were seen in every direction and almost all the eyes were set on the 14 televisions showing the game. Although there weren’t many big lines on Monday, almost every table was filled during the game.

For many Ranger fans, including freshman engineering major and Fort Worth native Arthur Sheridan, a World Series win is something that has been a long time coming.

“It feels good to be in this position. After all those bad seasons, it’s exciting and feels great to be in the World Series, if only now they can come out with a win,” he said.

Sheridan, like most diehard Rangers fans, remembers the pain after last years World Series where the San Francisco Giants beat the Rangers in only five games, and before that when they had only won one playoff game since their establishment.

However for another, newer, Rangers fan, this series means just as much. Freshman Jozabad Sanchez moved to Dallas four years ago and has been a Rangers fan since.

“It’s amazing to have the Rangers in the World Series,” he said. “The Cowboys aren’t doing so great, but with the [Dallas] Mavericks’ NBA title last year and the Rangers this year, Dallas is becoming a huge sports city. It’s great to watch.”

As the game progressed and Pluckers got more and more crowded, screams and sighs could be heard around the restaurant.

Loud cheers erupted when Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre hit a homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game up at two runs apiece. However, fans didn’t spend the whole game cheering: Sighs of relief were prevalent throughout the game. When Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson got out of a pinch in the top of the fifth inning, deep breaths were taken at every table.

Even the employees the Pluckers were getting into the game. John Wamsley, a native of Texas and host at the restaurant, is a big Cardinals fan, so he’s developed a natural rivalry with the other employees.

“It’s fun,” Wamsley said. “Every time the Cardinals are winning, I rub it in their faces and then when the Rangers are winning, they do it right back.”

With Texas holding a 3-2 lead in the series, the thought of a championship is becoming more tangible for many fans.

“If the Rangers won the World Series, that would be epic,” said fan Emily Schendel. “As long as history doesn’t repeat itself and they don’t blow it like last year, it looks good.”

Another fan threatened to go berserk.

“I would go absolutely crazy if they won. It would be awesome,” said Texas fan Neil McCormick.

As the Rangers took the lead in the bottom of the eighth and shut down the Cardinals to win the game, you could sense the excitement around the restaurant. It’s tough to say where the series is going to go from here but hopefully this starts a strong baseball tradition in Dallas,” fan Ben Kovour said.

Kovour, Sheridan and Sanchez all agreed that catcher Mike Napoli should be the MVP of the series.

Where the crowds outside Ranger Ballpark in Arlington came on TV, fans in Austin saw the excitement and hope. “I wish I was there right now,” Kovour said. “Imagine how crazy it must be there. I want to be in that crowd and celebrate this even more.” 

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Fans celebrate Rangers being on the brink of history

2011 World Series Column

The Texas Rangers just won’t go away. Derek Holland wouldn’t let them.

After Texas and St. Louis split two nail-biters, the Cardinals seemed to take control of the World Series with a convincing 16-7 win Saturday night. But Holland brought the Rangers back into the Fall Classic, shutting St. Louis out for more than eight innings to give Texas a 4-0 win and tie the series at two games apiece.

Holland turned in a masterful outing, allowing just two hits over eight and one-third innings against a team that set a postseason scoring record the previous day. The 25-year-old southpaw also held Albert Pujols in check. Pujols, who tied a World Series record with three home runs in Game 3, hit one ball out of the infield in four hitless at bats Sunday night.

St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa was off his game, too. The two-time World Series winner, known for the skillful shuffling of his pitching staff, finally had a pitching change backfire when he replaced starter Edwin Jackson with Mitchell Boggs in the sixth inning, whose first pitch landed in the left-field seats thanks to Mike Napoli.

Texas manager Ron Washington has had his share of boneheaded moves this series, including puzzling pinch-hitting decisions in Game 1 and letting reliever Alexi Ogando give up another go-ahead RBI courtesy of Allen Craig in Game 2. But he kept his team from throwing in the towel and has kept setup man Mike Adams and closer Neftali Feliz fresh, using them to get only two outs in the last two games. Now the Rangers have won more World Series games than they did last year when the Giants ousted them in five games.

Washington has also left an ailing Josh Hamilton in the lineup. Hamilton has done his best Kirk Gibson impersonation this October, struggling for most of the series but delivering a game-tying sacrifice fly in a Game 2 Rangers win and an RBI double in the first inning of Game 4 that proved to provide enough run support for the Texas pitching staff.

The series-tying victory was certainly a must-win contest for the Rangers. Even with the World Series knotted up at 2-2, the Rangers still have a tough task ahead of them with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter slated to start Game 5 and St. Louis set to host Games 6 and 7.

With Carpenter, who has won four games and thrown two shutouts in his last five starts, St. Louis has the World Series’ best pitcher. With Pujols, who boasts a .390 postseason batting average, the Cardinals also have the best hitter.

But Holland turned in the finest performance from either dugout, regardless of position, Sunday night. He’s helped the Rangers out-Cardinal the Cardinals. The odds were against Texas after losses in Games 1 and 3, but after 119 magnificent Holland pitches, the Rangers have regained momentum and a chance to win the World Series.

Keys to World Series Game 2

Get more production from the heart of the lineup

The players who occupy the No. 2 through No. 4 spots in the Rangers lineup — Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young — went a combined zero-for-11 in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday. Despite the strong outing by its starting pitcher and a two-run home run from catcher Mike Napoli, Texas couldn’t overcome the poor showing from the heart of its order. The Rangers need Andrus, Hamilton and Young, who are hitting a collective .216 and have just one postseason home run between them, to step up throughout the rest of the Fall Classic.

Trust the starting pitcher

Somehow, Texas got to the World Series without its ace C.J. Wilson picking up a win in three postseason starts. He didn’t get a win his fourth but was cruising through his finest playoff performance before Rangers manager Ron Washington prematurely pulled him in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game. Wilson had just given up a one-out double to Nation League Championship Series MVP David Freese before giving way to All-Star starter-turned-reliever Alexi Ogando, who promptly allowed the go-ahead run to cross the plate. If Washington wants his team to even the series tonight, he needs to trust his starting pitcher more. Colby Lewis, whose regular season home ERA was more than two runs lower than his road ERA, takes the mound at Busch Stadium in Game 2. Lewis has been solid in two road starts so far, going 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA. Washington didn’t use setup man Mike Adams or closer Neftali Feliz, but he needs to let Lewis go at least six innings tonight.

Don’t pinch-hit for the sake of pinch-hitting

Playing in a National League ballpark means the pitchers hit for themselves. It doesn’t call for excessive pinch-hitting. Washington was badly out-managed by St. Louis skipper Tony LaRussa, who’s managing his seventh World Series. Even though David Murphy had six hits in previous 10 at-bats entering Game 1, Washington opted to pinch-hit for him. With runners on first and second, Murphy’s substitute, Craig Gentry, was called out on strikes. The next batter, Esteban German, who had not registered an at-bat since Sept. 25, struck out as well to end the inning. Octavio Dotel and Jason Motte combined to retire the next six Rangers hitters. Meanwhile, LaRussa’s pinch-hitter, Allen Craig, knocked in what proved to be the game-winning run. Washington must maneuver his hitters around much better during the rest of the series for Texas to have a chance at winning it.