A night after Albert Pujols produced one of the greatest performances in World Series history, the Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland executed a masterful shutout to help Texas even the Fall Classic at two games apiece.
In Game 3, Pujols joined the holy trinity of players to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Etching his name alongside Yankee-great Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson (who in three decades was the only player to hit three homers in a World Series game) and the incomparable Babe Ruth (who done it twice before Jackson), Pujols put on a show for the ages. The Cardinals’ slugger went 5 for 6 with three homers and six runs batted in to lead St. Louis to a 16-7 victory over the Rangers, Saturday night in Arlington. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Pujols tied Milwaukee Brewers-great Paul Molitor for the most hits in a game, tied Yankee-greats Bobby Richardson and Hideki Matsui for the most R.B.I. and set a Fall Classic record for total bases, with 14.
In Game 4, Texas starter Derek Holland emerged as the unlikely hero. The 25-year-old lefty, in his third major league season, had never faced Pujols before Sunday’s contest. But, he was up for the challenge. Unlike Saturday night, when Rangers’ relievers Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez and Darren Oliver hung pitches in the center of the plate, Holland’s perfect formula shutout the mighty Pujols. The improbable pitcher pitched inside to Pujols and once the Cardinals’ first baseman respected the Rangers’ inside heat, Holland made him chase throws down and away. The outcome: Pujols went hitless in four at-bats (three against Holland) in a 4-0 loss to the Texas Rangers Sunday night in Arlington.
Holland dictated Game 4 the same way Pujols dictated the conditions of Game 3. His masterful pitching performance will go down in the annals of the Texas Rangers. Holland struck out seven, walked two and never was in trouble in his eight and a third innings against the team that erupted for 16 runs the previous night. He and closer Neftali Feliz combined on a two-hit shutout as the Rangers rebounded from Saturday’s humiliating loss to even the best-of-seven series at two games. Since 1972, only three other starters have gone at least eight shutout innings with two hits or fewer in the World Series: Tom Glavine in ’95, Roger Clemens in 2000 and Kenny Rogers in ’06.
Without Pujols hits, the Cardinals offense couldn’t produce. St. Louis outfielder Lance Berkman was the only player to earn hits –two- against Holland’s dominate 118 pitch night.
Cardinals’ starter Edwin Jackson performance wasn’t as fortunate. After giving up an early run in the first inning off a RBI double from Josh Hamilton to score Elvis Andrus, Jackson faced control problems all night, walking seven batters in five and a third innings. When the beleaguered pitcher walked Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz and David Murphy with one out in the sixth, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa had seen enough and replaced Jackson with reliever Mitchell Boggs to pitch to Mike Napoli. The Rangers catcher towered Boggs’s first pitch 392 feet into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer, bringing home Cruz and Murphy, for the final score 4-0.
Holland reluctantly retired from the mound with one out in the ninth, as Texas manager Ron Washington called Feliz from the bullpen. The pitcher walked off the field to a roaring ovation from the sold out crowd at Rangers Ballpark, as he ended the greatest performance of his career.
For the first time since 2003, the World Series stands at two games apiece. Game 5 is set for Monday night for the last game in Arlington before the series shifts back to St. Louis. The Rangers C.J. Wilson will seek redemption against Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals in a rematch of Game 1. The whole series is down to a best of three, with the outcome to be decided back at Busch Stadium.