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.

Quotes, notes, and stars: "No sign" of Ortiz slowing down

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Quotes, notes, and stars: "No sign" of Ortiz slowing down

Quotes, notes, and stars from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over the Yankees.

QUOTES:

* "He gathered himself and got a little rhythm as the night went along.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That's a rarity for Betances to leave his breaking ball up like he did. Once David saw it up, he attacked.'' - Farrell on David Ortiz's game-winning homer.

* "There's no sign of him slowing down. Tonight is a prime example of it. Key moment, big hit when we need it. There's a long resume there and it's continuing to build.'' - Farrell on Ortiz's ability to deliver in the clutch.

* "There were some mechanical adjustments that I made. I came out a little erratic, trying to do too much, maybe focusing too much. But as game went on, I kind of got into a rhythm.'' - Owens on his start.

* "I saw him throw a lot of breaking pitches to Mookie. The one they hit stayed up a little longer than usual. He's the kind of pitcher that, if you go up there looking for everything he's got, you're done.'' - Ortiz on his game-winning homer off Dellin Betances.

NOTES:

* Over his career, David Ortiz has hit 29 go-ahead homers from the eighth inning on.

* Ortiz has eight homers in his last 24 games against the Yankees.

* The win was the first this season for the Red Sox in a game in which they were tied or trailing after seven innings.

* The Red Sox have won five of their last six and seven of their last 10.

* The Yankees have been limited to three runs or fewer in their last six games.

* In 21 games, the Yankees have faced 10 lefty starters; in 22 games, the Red Sox have faced two.

* Masahiro Tanaka has issued just one walk in his last three starts.

STARS:

1) David Ortiz

With one swing of the bat, Ortiz untied a 2-2 game in the bottom of the eighth with a game-winning two-run homer.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley's penchant for delivering a big hit continued as he rapped a two-run double to left in the seventh to erase a 2-0 Yankee lead.

3) Masahiro Tanaka

He shut the Red Sox for six innings before allowing three hits and two runs in the seventh.

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win: Ortiz has flair for the dramatic

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First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win: Ortiz has flair for the dramatic

First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-2 win over New York Yankees...

* David Ortiz still has a flair for the dramatic.

Matched against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Ortiz cracked a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. Ortiz now has 18 RBI in 23 games -- he didn't start in four of those games - and at 40, remains the one hitter opposing teams want to face with the game on the line.

Before the homer, Ortiz was 0-for-7 against Betances, with four strikeouts.

* All things considered, Henry Owens did OK.

Owens didn't fool anybody. He couldn't command his fastball, and when the Yankees did hit it, they hit it pretty hard. He walked three and hit another. But Owens managed to limit the damage in a big way, allowing just two hits in six innings despite 10 baserunners.

Occasionally, he would get bailed out by his changeup, which seems to be the lone pitch he has that is better than average by major league standards.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to hit when it counts.

Bradley got the Red Sox offense going with a two-run, two-out double off Masahiro Tanaka, when the Sox were down to their final seven outs.

In the last week along, Bradley hit an extra-inning homer; a solo homer that represented the only run of the game; a ninth-inning triple; and Friday's big two-base hit.

That he has 10 RBI from the bottom of the order suggests he can provide some sock from that spot.

* Matt Barnes continues to make strides.

Since allowing a homer to Kevin Kiermaier on the last homestand, Barnes has allowed just one run in his last four appearances, covering 6 1/3 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average (5-for-24).

* The Yankees bullpen gets all the attention, but in relief of Owens, Barnes, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel faced nine hitters and retired them all.

McAdam: Gordon suspension is proof MLB testing works

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McAdam: Gordon suspension is proof MLB testing works

Kevin Millar, John Farrell and Sean McAdam talk about Dee Gordon’s 80-game suspension for PED violations.