Editor’s note: The third in a countdown of the most memorable moments in Globe Life Park history. The Texas Rangers will play their final game there Sept. 29 before moving into Globe Life Field next season.
The St. Louis Cardinals held a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-7 series after sticking it to the Rangers in Game 3, 16-7. Albert Pujols hit three home runs and made Game 4 a must-win for the Rangers.
Manager Ron Washington picked Holland for the start even though he hadn’t pitched particularly well in the postseason. He started Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and was handed a 9-2 lead after three, but didn’t make it out of the fifth.
He made it out of the fifth against the Cardinals. He almost tossed a shutout.
The left-hander allowed only two hits in 8 1/3 scoreless innings as the Rangers won 4-0 to even the series. They went on to win Game 5 the next night to set up their near-miss at the franchise’s first world championship.
It was the game of a lifetime for Holland, who now pitches for the Chicago Cubs.
“I was waiting for moments like these to come along,” Holland said. “It’s not like I knew it was going to happen, but I knew if I was going to do something the time to do it was now. I know there was a lot of expectations going into it.”
Holland was in his second big-league season and coming off his 24th birthday two weeks earlier. Rangers veterans Michael Young and Ian Kinsler reassured Holland that he didn’t need to do anything other than just be himself on the mound.
It also helped that Holland and catcher Mike Napoli had formed a strong bond. Of all the things that went right that night, Holland said the most important was Napoli’s ability to control the game and to control Holland.
“I don’t think you could ever break up the chemistry that he and I had,” Holland said. “He probably knew me better than I knew myself when it came to pitching. He was on top of his game. He’s one of my favorite targets I’ve ever thrown to.”
Holland retired eight straight before Berkman started the fifth with a double, but he was quickly erased by a double play.
The game was still 1-0 in the sixth, when Napoli connected for a three-run homer.
Holland breezed through the seventh and eighth, and retired the leadoff man in the ninth before a one-out walk brought Washington from the dugout to get Holland.
“We needed that,” Andrus said. “We won that game, and it gave us the opportunity to get closer to the World Series. It’s one of those highlights you’re watching now, and it’s super cool to remember it.”
Neftail Feliz finished off the shutout and Holland’s biggest moment in baseball.
“He can always hang his hat on that performance,” Young said. “That was the game of a lifetime for him. Derek is such a good kid. He’s got a huge heart. He deserved that performance.”