16 runs, 15 hits, and 4 Home Runs, all in one game. A power-hitter who joined the ranks of Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson with three home runs in a single World Series game, also tied WS records for hits (5), RBI (6), and broke the record for total bases (14). Not to mention the most productive offense in the National League in 2011...
...Sun rises, sun sets...
0 runs, 2 hits, 3 walks, and zero runners reaching at third base. A lineup that minus Lance Berkman went 0-25 (.000/.107/.000). And a potent, powerful lineup that finished the night, in a hitter's ballpark, with a line .071/.161/.107...
...So what was the difference...
A 25-year-old kid, who has fewer strands of facial hair than most 10-year-olds in this country. A young, lefty whose ALCS performances combined for 7.1 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 4 HR, 4 BB, 5 Ks. A Southpaw, who last night, held the mighty Redbird attack to nada, as he carved through 8.1 IP, 2 H (both to Lance Berkman), 0 runs, 2 BB, 7 Ks, in 116 pitches.
A postseason performance for the Rangers franchise that really only matches one other individual, Cliff Lee! In last year's ALCS Game 3, Lee shut the Yankee bats down to the tune of 8 IP, 2 H, 0 runs, 0 BB, 13 Ks. Compare those two, and it's freakishly similar. This is also the same Cliff Lee that was the only ML-pitcher in 2011 with more shutouts than Holland, 6 to 4. The same Lee that had his brain picked countless times in 2010 by his young shadow, Derek Holland. And the same Lee, that I have to believe last night was watching, smiling, and maybe even fist pumping for his friend Derek.
Before I really dive into his performance last night, I want to look at some more comparisons of this performance to that of the other 620 World Series games played: 1) He became only the fourth pitcher in the past 40 years to throw at least eight, shutout innings and allowing only two hits or less. The other three - Kenny Rogers (2006 Tigers), Roger Clemens (2000 Yankees), and Tom Glavine (1995 Braves). 2) His 8.1 innings pitched, is the longest scoreless outing by an AL pitcher since Andy Pettitte went the same length against the Braves, in 1996. 3) CLOSE CALLS: Let's say for just a second that Holland could have induced the groundball, double-play to end the inning that he told Washington he was going to do...well then, he would have had a 2-hit, shutout. The last AL pitcher to throw a shutout in the World Series, was Jack Morris (MIN), Game 7 in 1991. He would have become the first pitcher to throw a two-hit shutout since Nelson Briles (PIT) in 1971. And he would have become only the third LHP to throw a two-hit shutout, joining Whitey Ford (1961) and Warren Spahn (1958). I know he didn't accomplish those, and close doesn't count, but it's still nice to read about.
Now you know what happened, and got to see how rare and special his performance was last night. But how did he do it? Was this just an aberration of good stuff from Holland and a back-down-to-Earth night for the Cards? Or, was this his coming out party?
To answer the last two questions first...No & No! Derek Holland has dominating stuff in his arsenal, and he "can" be a very dominating and imposing pitcher on the mound. But this was not his "coming out party," Holland has already had that. Maybe to the national media it was, but that's not my concern. Check the stats, look at his starts, even back to 2009, Holland has and can be a flat-out, dominating pitcher, yet at the same time he can also be a very hittable pitcher. The problem has always been...consistency and focus. If anything, that is what last night "could" be marked as, as Holland's statement that he has figured it out, is going to be more consistent and extremely focused on game days.
The most telling symbol of Holland's year / career, would be this July. Derek had six starts in the month of July, on the 7th, 14th, 25th, and 30th he combined to go 4-0, 0.00 ERA, 33 IP, 18 hits, 1 run, 0 HRs, 4 BB, 24 Ks, and a 0.67 WHIP, and this included three complete game shutouts. However, sprinkled in were starts on the 2nd and 20th, in which he combined 0-1, 18.00 ERA, 6 IP, 13 hits, 12 ER, 2 HRs, 5 BB, 5 Ks, and a 3.00 WHIP. When Holland has his good stuff working he not only is the best LHP on the Rangers staff, but one of the best in the league. And last night, he had his good stuff.
Holland started the game off with a 1-2-3 inning, didn't seem too huge at the time, but it allowed the Rangers to score the first run of the game (Hamilton RBI double in the bottom of the 1st), the Cardinals had scored the first run of the game in the postseason 10 times already and in all three World Series games. In six of the eight innings he completed, Holland faced only three batters, including a 1-2-3 "Shut-Down" seventh inning after the Mike Napoli three-run home run of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman. Regardless of the inning or pitcher, shutting those three down in a row is not an easy task.
A look at Derek Holland's performance, inning-by-inning:
1st: Furcal (0-2) Line out to 3rd, Craig (2-2) Strikeout swinging, Pujols (1-1) Groundout to SS. 2nd: Holliday 2-2) Strikeout looking, Berkman (3-2) Double to deep RF, Freese (1-2) Strikeout looking, Molina (2-1) Ground to 2nd. 3rd: Jay (0-2) Groundout to SS, Nick Punto (1-1) Groundout to 1B, Furcal (1-2) Line out to P. 4th: Craig (3-1) Ground to 1B, Pujols (0-1) Fouled out to 1B, Holliday (1-2) Groundout to 3B. 5th: Berkman (0-1) Single to CF, Freese (1-0) Double Play 2B-SS-1B, Molina (2-2) Flied out to CF (1st out hit past the infield). 6th: Jay (1-2) Groundout to 2B, Punto (3-1) Walk, Furcal (1-1) Fouled out to 1B, Craig (0-2) Strikeout swinging. 7th: Pujols (3-2) Groundout to P, Holliday (3-2) Groundout to P, Berkman (1-2) Strikeout looking. 8th: Freese (0-1) Groundout to SS, Molina (1-2) Strikeout swinging, Theriot (1-2) Strikeout swinging. 9th: Punto (1-2) Groundout to 3B, Furcal (3-2) Walk...removed for CP Neftali Feliz.
One night after Pujols' historical evening, Holland got him all three times he faced him (0-4 on the evening), and each time Derek faced him it was with no runners on base. Berkman recorded both hits off Holland, but batters with him on-base went 0-3 with a double play and strikeout. In the 6th, Punto worked a walk off Holland, aside from that the 6-7-8-9 hitters combined 0-11 with 3 Ks.
Holland threw 116 pitches over 8.1 innings, 76 of them for strikes (66%). Of the 28 batters he faced, he threw first pitch strikes to 16 of them (57%), and none of those 16 strikes were put into play. Derek threw 72 fastballs and 44 off-speed pitches. His fastball topped out at 97mph, and his final one he threw in the evening was 95mph. 30 of his 44 off-speed pitches were strikes, 23 of them being curveballs (highest number thrown in two years), and of his seven strikeouts tonight, four of them came on sliders.
Anyone who loves pitching or knows pitching will tell you, the key to the game is mixing speeds, work both sides of the plate, and throw strikes. Holland did all three, and the results...well, going to be a LONG time before I forget how dominating he was in Game Four of the World Series on October 23rd, 2011.