ARLINGTON, Texas -- Greetings, albeit a little on the late side, as I've gotten through some early print-edition stories and some Internet trouble in the auxiilary press box to (hopefully) bring you some thoughts and updates on Game Four.
The Rangers have gotten some early inspiration with a first pitch tossed by former President and team owner George W. Bush (left), which was a little high and outside away of the reach of Nolan Ryan. Bush got a huge ovation when he was introduced and the flashbulbs were popping all over the park on his delivery from the bottom of the mound. You might remember when he threw at Yankee Stadium prior to Game Three in 2001, he did it right from the rubber and followed Derek Jeter's instructions to not bounce it. As we say at the rink, game on.
Bot-1st: Things started well for the home side, from the Bush pitch to a 1-2-3 first from Derek Holland that included a grounder to short by Albert Pujols. The first two batters were easily retired and there was a clear murmur in the crowd as Pujols stepped up. With one out in the bottom of the first, Elvis Andrus singled to left and Josh Hamilton roped an RBI double into the corner in right, with Andrus streaking around the bases to score the game's first run without a throw.
Michael Young walked but Adrian Beltre (whose 4-for-4 game last night was totally wiped out by The Pujols Show) struck out. Nelson Cruz walked on a full-count pitch to load the bases, but Edwin Jackson escaped the game's first critical moment as David Murphy jazzed the crowd with a deep fly to left that Holliday got on the edge of the warning track. Rangers lead, 1-0.
End-3rd: Derek Holland is giving the Rangers exactly what they need. Their bullpen is shot and he's retired nine of the first 10 hitters, giving up only a Berkman double in the second. Even better, he's needed just 43 pitches to do it. Think Ron Washington would love to see Holland go seven, use Mike Adams in the eighth and Neftali Feliz in the ninth? That would be the formula tonight for Texas. Jackson, meanwhile, recovered from a shaky first and has set down all six men he's faced the last two innings (although Kinsler singled in the second and was picked off by Molina). Rangers still lead, 1-0.
End-4th: It's still 1-0 for Texas. Another 1-2-3 inning for Holland and Jackson issued two-out walks to Murphy and Napoli before striking out Moreland. This place doesn't get a lot of national pub but it's great (OK, I realize it probably isn't so great on a 115-degree day in July but humor me). The Texas Lone Star is everywhere on the concourse and even on the side of every single seat, all 52,000 of them (right).
End-5th: The crowd of 51,539 is seeing quite a pitchers' duel. The 1-0 score remains. Jackson has given up three hits, just one since the first, and Holland has given up two. Berkman is the only St. Louis baserunner, with a double in the seond and single in the fifth.
More on the ballpark: My favorite part is the right field section, shown at left in this shot I took yesterday (click pic reminder for a bigger look). It's a double-decker with poles holding up the green roof on both levels and it's an ode to old Tiger Stadium. You close your eyes and look at it and it's shocking. I used to love going to that place. First time I saw a roving hot dog vendor with the steel cart, the weenie dogs, the roll compartment and the mustard. Awesome.
End-6th: Jackson was relieved after walking seven men, including passes to Cruz and Murphy with one out. That brought in Mitchell Boggs and out went the game for the Cardinals on one pitch. A 95-mph fastball that Napoli turned on and clubbed out to left for a no-doubt three-run blast. Sounded good off the bat. Yes, sounded. Rangers now lead, 4-0, and it looks pretty good that we'll be going back to St. Louis for Game Six.
Mid-7th: At GBA time, Holland continues to work on his two-hitter with only Berkman standing in his way of history. Pujols is 0 for 3 in this one with two grounders and a foul pop. Super job by Holland attacking each hitter and making no mistakes. He's gotten 12 groundball outs thus far. He's at 91 pitches. They could certainly get another inning out of him to save the pen even more.
The Series is Even: The Rangers win it 4-0 as Holland and Feliz comine on a two-hitter. Holland goes 8 1/3 with seven strikeouts.