Holland brilliant as Texas ties World Series

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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.