Behind Holland’s masterful two-hit, seven-strikeout gem, the Rangers made a first-inning run against Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson hold up, with catcher Mike Napoli adding a towering three-run homer in the sixth. The Rangers still have not lost consecutive games since the last week of August.
“He was a thoroughbred tonight,” Rangers Manager Ron Washington said of Holland. “He showed the world what he was capable of.”
Perhaps never before had the juxtaposition of two games done more to illustrate the capricious nature of baseball. On Saturday night in Game 3, the Cardinals scored 16 runs. On Sunday night, with the wind having shifted in the pitchers’ favor, they put only three runners on base in eight innings against Holland, and advanced only one of them into scoring position.
“It’s not complicated,” said Cardinals designated hitter Lance Berkman. “He’s throwing 95 [mph] from the left side. How many guys in the game can do that? There’s only a handful, and they’re all studs. Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, David Price.”
Then there was this contrast: On Saturday night, Pujols produced perhaps the greatest offensive night in World Series history — three homers, two singles, five runs scored, six RBI — and on Sunday night he failed to get a ball out of the infield in three tries against Holland. In fact, Matt Holliday didn’t get a ball out of the infield either, nor did David Freese or Allen Craig.
“I got some good pitches to hit, and I missed them,” Pujols said. “That’s part of the game. . . . He did a really outstanding job.”
It helped in Holland’s effort to contain Pujols that none of his first three plate appearances came with runners on base. It would have been understandable if Holland had pitched around him anyway, but he didn’t. Holland fed Pujols a steady stream of off-speed stuff in his first two encounters, then went with five fastballs the third time, and Pujols hit a comebacker to the mound.
“I just wanted to go right after him,” Holland said. “He’s one of the best in the game, but I wanted him to see my ‘A’ game as well.”
Holland, 25, carried an unsightly 5.27 ERA this postseason into this start, and he hadn’t so much as pitched into the eighth inning in more than five weeks. But his effort Sunday night not only succeeded in silencing the Cardinals’ bats, but he also saved a bullpen that had started to appear ragged and tired, and that was without heavily used Alexi Ogando for the night.