Sunday, October 23, 2011
Defensive difference: First out is 'huge' one
By Jeff Caplan
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Derek Holland's third pitch into his phenomenal Game 4 performance might have doomed the young lad, if only it had the chance.
Don't undersell the first out of the game when Rafael Furcal's laser down the third-base line found the webbing of Adrian Beltre's glove perched just above his head. Stopped it dead it in its tracks.
"Furcal hit the ball pretty good," Beltre said. "But, I thought the pitch was coming in and I shaded a little bit to the line and I was able to put some glove on it."
One exhale. One down and 26 to go.
"That was huge, I mean that could have been a double, triple, who knows because Furcal's got some speed," said Holland, who went on to get the next 24 outs before being pulled by manager Ron Washington after going 8 1/3 innings in the 4-0 victory that evened the World Series. "It's my job to go out there and make the pitches and Beltre made a great play out there."
For a pitcher whose greatest failings have come in the early goings, Holland didn't even try to brush it off as it being too early in the game to mean anything substantial.
After all, Josh Hamilton's RBI double three batters into the bottom of the first proved to be the game-winner.
"That could have been a momentum swing for them right out of the gate," Holland said of Furcal's liner. "They could have taken off with some big momentum, so Beltre making that play is huge. It kept the damage down."
Remember, this was a hot-swinging Cardinals team that put up 16 runs in Game 4 the night before and was looking to seize a commanding lead. An extra-base hit immediately gets the juices flowing, brings Craig Allen to the batter's box and Albert Pujols into the on-deck circle. Pujols brought a string of three consecutive homers into Game 4.
Holland won't soon forget how his night ended, a sold-out home crowd giving him a standing ovation after a brilliant performance. He also won't forgot the first out that set it all in motion.