McAdam at the WS: Holland to the rescue

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McAdam at the WS: Holland to the rescue

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The 4-0 lead seemed safe, or as safe as a lead can be when Albert Pujols is due up two hitters later. And so, for the 51,539 in attendance at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, the only ninth inning drama Sunday night centered around whether manager Ron Washington would let Derek Holland finish what he started.

Holland was two outs shy of becoming the first starter since Josh Beckett (Game 6, 2003) to throw a complete-game shutout in the World Series, and the first to do so in the American League since Jack Morris's Game 7 masterpiece in 1991.

The conversation lasted a few minutes and cameras showed both Holland and Washington enjoying a good laugh.

Later, after Texas closer Neftali Feliz nailed down the final two outs to complete the 4-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series, the two shared the details of their mound talk.

"He was begging to stay in the game," said Washington with a smile. "I just told him if you want to stay out here, get on your knees."

Then Washington paused for comic effect.

"He walked off the field," the manager said.

"I was begging, as he said," said a somewhat sheepish Holland. "I didn't get on my knees . . . I was trying everything I could to stay out there, but unfortunately, I couldn't."

In retrospect, it was about the only thing Holland didn't do Sunday night. He limited the St. Louis Cardinals, the same St. Louis Cardinals who totaled 16 runs the night before, to two hits -- both to Lance Berkaman.

Holland was supremely efficient. He had five 1-2-3 innings and another inning in which he faced the minimum number of hitters. And in perhaps the most amazing feat, the Cardinals hit just three balls into the outfield all night.

Beyond Berkman's two hits -- a double to right in the second and a leadoff single to center in the fifth -- the only other ball to reach the outfield was a routine flyout to center by Yadier Molina in the fifth.

Otherwise, the Cards had nothing but bad swings off Holland, with a succession of slow rollers, foul balls and weak popups. Holland made like some daredevil pilot at an air show.

"In, out, up, down . . . " said Washington. "He was just outstanding."

Indeed he was, which was quite a turnaround from his previous starts this postseason. In one ALDS outing and another two in the ALCS against Detroit, Holland had combined to pitch a total of 12 13 innings. He couldn't get out of the third in Game 2 of the ALCS, and was done before the fifth inning was complete in Game 6.

It wasn't for lack of stuff. Holland showed over the course of the regular season -- during which he won 16 games -- that he can be dominant. In 11 of his 32 starts, Holland allowed one or no runs and he had four complete-game shutouts.

What occasionally hinders Holland, however, are his emotions. He tends to be excitable, with lots of nervous energy both on the mound and off.

That's why it was a good sign that he sat quietly in the dugout between innings Sunday, rather than his usual habit of pacing.

The newfound calm, he said, was the result of a different mental approach.

"It's more like a boxing approach," said Holland, "is what I've been telling everybody. I've got nine rounds and in between innings is when I sit in my corner and relax."

But the key to keeping himself under control may have come before the game. Fox cameras caught Washington talking to Holland, his hands on his starter's shoulders, delivering an earnest pep talk minutes before the lefty took the mound.

Holland listened attentively, nodding occasionally, soaking in the message. Washington was reminding Holland to not go too far inside on the Cardinals' lineup.

"I made sure that when I went in," Holland said, "it was to kind of brush them off the plate a little bit, so I could expand the zone a little."

Washington's message seemed to take and produce the desired result. After racing around the bases in Game 3, the Cards had only one baserunner reach scoring position against Holland.

Not even Pujols was a factor, going hitless in three at-bats off Holland. Of course, it helped that, each time he came to the plate, the bases were empty and Holland could afford to pitch more aggressively than he otherwise might.

It was that kind of night for Holland, a night in which everything he tried worked, right up until his ninth-inning appeal to his manager.

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason tells Toucher & Rich a story from his early days in Cincinnati when he witnessed Pete Rose overseeing five guys he paid to sign a stack of photographs for fans.