Derek Holland threw a dazzling World Series gem as the Texas Rangers shut out the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 on Sunday to level the best-of-seven championship at 2-2.
Mixing a darting breaking ball and a beguiling change-up with his 95 mph fastball, Holland gave up just two hits in eight and one-third innings before closer Neftali Feliz secured the win by striking out Matt Holliday with two men on.
The 25-year-old Holland struck out seven and walked just two in a superlative effort that earned a standing ovation from the Rangers Ballpark crowd of more than 50,000 when he came off the mound in the ninth.
Catcher Mike Napoli struck the decisive blow for Texas, belting a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
Rangers manager Ron Washington gave all the credit to the pitcher-catcher combination for shutting down the Cardinals, who scored 16 runs in a Game Three rout.
It was Holland and Mike Napoli, said Washington. He was able to use all his pitches all around the strike zone.
He had good off-speed stuff tonight, kept them off balance, move them in, move them out, up, down. He was just outstanding. He and Napoli worked outstanding tonight.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa agreed that pitching made all the difference.
I would just say he worked us over. Give him credit, La Russa said. He just worked us over and shut us down.
Holland said he was determined not to be cowed by the Cardinals, particularly Albert Pujols, who had blasted three home runs and drove in six in Saturday's game.
I know he's a great hitter. He's one of the best in the game, there's no doubt about it, Holland said. But I wanted him to see my A game, as well.
I'm going to try to do everything I can and try to go right after him. I felt like I did a good job of that today.
Pujols went 0-for-4. Both Cardinals hits in the game came from Lance Berkman on a double to right-center in the second and a single to center in the fifth.
Texas got a run in the first off St. Louis starter Edwin Jackson with an RBI double by Josh Hamilton.
After that, Jackson matched zeros with Holland. He yielded no hits after a second-inning single by Ian Kinsler, but battled control problems.
The right-hander walked two in the first but stranded the bases loaded. He gave up two more free passes in the fourth but left the two men on base.
After giving up back-to-back walks to Nelson Cruz and David Murphy with one out in the sixth, La Russa removed him from the game and brought in Mitchell Boggs to face Napoli.
Napoli promptly crushed the first pitch from the reliever deep into the seats in left to pad the Rangers lead to 4-0.
Rangers Ballpark erupted in a frenzy that also swept up Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and former U.S. President George W. Bush, the current and former owners of the Rangers, who high-fived each other from their seats near the Texas dugout.
Holland carried his shutout into the ninth but after walking Rafael Furcal on his 116th pitch, Washington came to the mound to take him out.
The left-hander told reporters he begged Washington to let him finish the game.
Very fair description, Washington said. He was begging. I just told him if you want to stay out here, get on your knees, added the manager to laughter in the interview room. He walked off the field.
Feliz came on and walked Allen Craig, but got Pujols to fly to center then blew a 99-mph fastball by Holliday to end it.
Game Five, which will put the winner within one victory of the title, returns to Rangers Ballpark on Monday with C.J. Wilson starting for Texas against St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter.
The Fall Classic will then head back to St. Louis for Game Six Wednesday.