Is it safe to say that Derek Holland had a moment yesterday? Yeah, you could say that. And this picker semi-called it yesterday in the game picks. Here was yesterday's quote:
Of course, it all depends on Derek Holland. Holland is a shut-down capable pitcher, but he's also had his share of clunkers along the way. He's just as capable of throwing a nine inning shutout as he is of getting knocked out by the fourth. For the Rangers to win, it has to be the former and not the latter, especially with the amount of outs his bullpen had to get yesterday.
You could say that Derek Holland did the former in spades. A one out walk was all that stood between him and a complete game in the ninth inning. Edwin Jackson was nearly as good, except, unlike Holland, Jackson flirted with disaster from the opening inning. How he escaped with only one run scored that inning was a real Houdini act. After that first inning, Jackson wasn't seriously threatened until his last inning when Mitchell Boggs made an unfortunate pitch to Mike Napoli whose homer plated both of Jackson's prior walks. As much as this was a signature game for Derek Holland, it was for Jackson as well. The Cardinal pitcher is in the same category as A.J. Burnett...great stuff, mixed results.
It's impossible to quantify how big Holland's effort was. If the Rangers lost, they'd be down 3-1 and would be forced to win two straight in St. Louis with the most loyal fans in baseball rooting their home team on. But every game is big now. If the Rangers lose tonight, then again, they must sweep in St. Louis and everything Holland accomplished will be for naught. If the Rangers win, then have a decent chance to take one of the two games to become world champs. Tonight is unbelievably huge. And underscoring the impact of the game is that both teams have their aces on the mound.
Except for Game Three, the starting pitchers have reestablished themselves in this series. It's impossible to forget Chris Carpenter's big time performance on the last day of the regular season to get the Cardinals into the post season. Meanwhile, it's easy to forget that C.J. Wilson was one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball in 2011. His post season hasn't cemented how good his season was. He has a perfect opportunity to follow Holland's effort and build on it to have his own moment. Which ace will come up big? And if the answer is neither, which bullpen will save the day? This is going to be fun!
- The Rangers over the Cardinals: Both teams need this game badly but the Rangers have the most to lose. Fortunately, they have one more home game and that has to help them. Carpenter is certainly capable of throwing a gem, but so is Wilson. For the Rangers to win, they have to get to Carpenter early, take an early lead and let their crowd get into the game. The Rangers will need their top of the line up to scratch their way on base and create havoc on the base paths. And C.J. Wilson needs to pitch the game of his life. Both bullpens have reached their creative limits and if one of these starters doesn't start well, his team will be in big trouble. The pick has to be for the home team here. They have to win the game or you can start etching the Cardinals' team name on that trophy.