The St. Louis Cardinals' offense went wild Saturday night when the World Series shifted to the heat of central Texas. But Rangers pitcher Derek Holland made sure to restore order in Game Four.
The Texas left-hander fired 8 1/3 brilliant innings of two-hit ball Sunday night -- allowing just four men to reach base -- and catcher Mike Napoli belted a threee-run homer in the sixth as the Rangers posted a 4-0 victory to even the series at two wins apiece.
Game Five is tonight at 8:05 (Ch. 29) in Rangers Ballpark, with aces C.J. Wilson of the Rangers and Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals going in a rematch of the opener won by St. Louis, 3-2. The Texas victory ensures the series will return to St. Louis, where Game Six will be Wednesday night in Busch Stadium.
Holland, a 25-year-old left-hander, was 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA in the regular season. But he was a mess in the postseason with a 5.27 ERA in four outings.
He certainly redeemed himself Sunday. With a simple repertoire of fastball, curveball, changeup, Holland kept the St. Louis lineup off balance all night.
"I just wanted to make sure I could go out there and execute all my pitches," Holland said. "That was the main thing. I wanted to go right after these hitters. I wanted to show that I belonged here."
"We knew we were going to have to mix some off-speed pitches in and we did it early," Napoli said. "Derek did a good job getting strike one, so when he gets strike one, we can do a lot of different things and mix pitches up."
Holland struck out seven and walked two before he was relieved by Neftali Feliz after walking Rafael Furcal with one out in the ninth. Feliz completed the combined two-hitter, the fewest number of hits in a Series game since Atlanta had two in the 1999 opener at Yankee Stadium.
The Rangers continued their remarkable run of not losing consecutive games since Aug. 23-25 by bouncing back from Saturday's embarrassing 16-7 defeat. Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols bashed three home runs in that game and also tied Series records with five hits and six RBIs, but he was no match for Holland in this one and finished 0 for 4.
Against Holland, Pujols grounded out in the first and seventh and fouled out in the fourth. He flew out in the ninth against Feliz. But Pujols was not alone in his futility.
The only Cardinal with a hit was designated hitter Lance Berkman, who doubled in the second and singled in the fifth. He was left on in the second and erased on a double play two pitches after his single in the fifth. Holland's only other baserunner came on a walk to No. 9 hitter Nick Punto in the sixth.
"They worked us over," said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. "Nobody centered the ball except Lance so you've got to give them credit."
The Rangers gave Holland a quick run as Elvis Andrus singled to left with one out in the first and Josh Hamilton, who was just 1 for 12 in the series, pulled a ball into the right-field corner with Andrus streaking around the bases to score the game's first run without a throw.
The run ended the Cardinals' streak of scoring first in 10 straight postseason games, one short of the all-time record of 11 set by Detroit from 1972-84.
St. Louis starter Edwin Jackson walked seven in 5 1/3 innings but left only down by that run. The deficit quickly ballooned to four, however, as Napoli clubbed reliever Mitchell Boggs' first pitch deep over the wall in left to put Texas in control and spark party time among the towel-waving crowd of 51,539.
Former President George W. Bush and Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan were shown on television high-fiving after the homer. Ryan had caught Bush's ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.
After walking Furcal in the ninth, Holland tried to convince manager Ron Washington to keep him in the game when Washington came to the mound. Holland threw 118 pitches (77 strikes) and Washington said that was enough.
"He was begging," said a smiling Washington. "I just told him, 'If you want to stay out here, get on your knees.' He walked off the field."
"He was a thoroughbred tonight," Washington added. "We needed him to go out there and pitch well and he did, and he showed the world what he's capable of doing."
The Cards' 16-run difference from one game to the next matches the Series record set in 1936, when the Yankees beat the New York Giants, 18-4, in Game Two and then won Game Three by only 2-1.
Holland set a particular tone in the first against Pujols, who came to the plate amid audible murmurs from the crowd in the wake of Game Three.
"I just wanted to go right after him," Holland said. "He's a great hitter, one of the best in the game. But I wanted to make sure he saw my 'A' game as well."
"He's a fighter, he's a battler," Washington said. "He goes out there and he gives you everything he has. Sometimes his emotions overtake everything. Tonight he never got out of control and Mike Napoli deserves a lot of credit for that."