Sunday, October 23, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Cardinals 0
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The offensive explosion we saw in Game 3 was not around in Game 4. Thanks in large part to the mastery of Derek Holland, Edwin Jackson's ability to pitch out of trouble early and no huge wind, the ball didn't jump as much. But the Texas Rangers got the win they needed nonetheless, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 to even the World Series. Some quick thoughts (more to come from the clubhouse):
What it means: The Rangers tie the series up with a critical Game 4 win. That makes this a best-of-three series and is sure seems to have the makings of seven games. It sets up Game 5 with No. 1 starters Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson taking center stage.
Good start: Holland needed a good start and he got it, throwing 11 pitches (eight of them strikes) in a 1-2-3 first inning that included a strikeout of Allen Craig. What was different from his other postseason starts is that Holland mixed his pitches early. He threw a curveball to the second batter he faced and then fired some nice fastballs and sliders.
Big performance in big start: Holland, who said before the game that his biggest focus was staying within himself and not allowing his emotions to consume him, seemed extremely calm. He got a pep talk from his manager just before running out to the mound and never looked back. Holland was sensational. Everything was working. He was aggressive, looked confident and was rarely in trouble. His fastball had movement, his off-speed stuff kept hitters off-balance and he wasn't afraid to throw the secondary stuff. It was his best postseason start at the biggest of times.
Big ovation: The Napoli chant was huge, but the ovation for Derek Holland was tremendous too. He was taken out after 8 1/3 innings and the sellout crowd of 50,000-plus gave him a proper send off.
Pujols quiet: One night after hitting three home runs, Albert Pujols was 0-for-3 off Derek Holland with two groundouts. Pujols never got the ball out of the infield against Holland, grounding out to short, popping out to first and bouncing to the mound. He flied out to center against Feliz in the ninth.
Year of the Napoli: Mike Napoli's ridiculous second half and postseason continued in Game 4. He hit a three-run shot in the sixth to turn a 1-0 game into a 4-0 Rangers lead. Jackson walked Nelson Cruz and David Murphy with one out and manager Tony La Russa put in reliever Mitchell Boggs. On the first pitch Napoli saw, he crushed a 392-foot homer to left. The crowd chanted "NAP-O-LI" and the catcher came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Rangers get one early (but just one): The Rangers scored in the first for Holland, who led the majors in run support at 7.64 per game this season. Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson threw Hamilton a changeup and he pulled it down the line for a double to score Elvis Andrus. But the Rangers couldn't get Hamilton home from second. They ended up loading the bases with two outs and Murphy hit a first-pitch fly ball out to left-center. Still, the early run got the crowd in it and had to be a good feeling for Holland.
Molina gets best of Kinsler: Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler got a two-out hit in the second and was ready to try to get into scoring position. But as he took a lead from first with Andrus at the plate, he strayed a little too far and catcher Yadier Molina fired a quick throw to first and caught Kinsler in a rundown.
No jet stream: One night after both teams bashed balls all over the place thanks in large part to a strong wind from the south creating the Rangers Ballpark jet stream, that wind was nowhere in sight in Game 4. Several balls hit by both teams were in the deep parts of the park, but not deep enough. So the offensive fireworks we saw in Game 3 weren't replicated in Game 4.
Walking like crazy: Jackson walked seven batters, tying a Cardinals record for walks by a starter in a World Series game. Bill Hallahan had seven walks in Game 2 of the 1931 World Series against the Philadelphia A's. Jackson managed to work around them, except for the final two. Those last two walks meant two were on when Napoli hit his big three-run homer.
Feliz comes in: Washington decided to go with closer Feliz to get the final two outs. He walked Craig to put two men on for Pujols, but got the slugger to fly out. He then retired Matt Holliday to end the game.