ARLINGTON -- What a changeable, diverse and unpredictable game this is. Along with being wacky and wonderful, it can also be supremely enjoyable -- if you were the Texas Rangers on Sunday night.
One night after they couldn't buy, beg, steal or borrow an important out, the Rangers stopped the St. Louis Cardinals cold. The result was a 4-0 victory in Game 4 and a World Series tied at 2-2.
One night after the Cardinals scored 16 runs against the Rangers -- one night after Albert Pujols hit three home runs, drove in six runs and accounted for a record 14 total bases -- the Redbirds could not find their way onto the scoreboard at all.
Saturday night, the St. Louis offense created carnage wherever it went. Sunday night -- same time, same station, same Rangers Ballpark -- the Cardinals' offense created silence, stillness and emptiness in the run column.
The primary author of the Cards' offensive demise was Derek Holland, a left-hander with a 5.27 ERA in his previous 2011 postseason work. It was less than a year ago when Holland, making his first World Series appearance in a relief role, walked three straight batters and was asked to leave the premises. But Sunday night, he was splendid; pitching with poise, command, spotting his fastball, getting the Cards off balance with offspeed stuff, and generally controlling the evening.
Hit and then miss
One night after notching 15 hits, the Cardinals managed just two hits, which is the second-largest drop off for one team from one World Series game to the next.
20 in Game 4; 4 in Game 5
15 in Game 3; 2 in Game 4
18 in Game 4; 5 in Game 5
18 in Game 2; 5 in Game 3
17 in Game 2; 4 in Game 3
The St. Louis offense, which just hours before had seemed unstoppable, never got started in this one. The Cards seriously approached scoring just once off Holland. In the second, Lance Berkman doubled with one out. Holland struck out David Freese, and then Yadier Molina hit a ball up the middle that appeared to be ticketed for center field. But second baseman Ian Kinsler ranged far to his right to glove the ball, and then threw out Molina. There would be no single, no run batted in, no St. Louis appearance on the scoreboard in this inning.
What nobody could possibly know at that moment was that this would be the closest the Cardinals would come to scoring all night long.
Saturday night, they scored in every inning from the fourth through the end of the game. They scored 10 runs in the middle three innings. They seemingly scored at will.
Sunday, the Cardinals scored not at all. From 16 runs one night to none the next, this difference was historically large. The 16 runs matched the largest run differential in World Series history for one team in successive World Series games. In the 1936 World Series, the Yankees defeated the Giants, 18-4, in Game 2. In Game 3, the Yankees won, 2-1.
Pujols had dominated the St. Louis scoring fest on Saturday. He is still the best all-around player in the game today, regardless of what happens in the remainder of the Series. Sunday night, he was at least made mortal again. He went 0-for-4.
"Good pitching is always going to stop good hitting," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Keep the ball out of the middle."
From Holland, this was better than "good pitching." Much closer to great pitching. Against a St. Louis offense that led the National League in runs scored this season, that had routed his colleagues on the mound to the tune of 16 runs in the last game, Holland gave up nothing of value. In 8 1/3 innings, he allowed two hits, two walks and struck out seven.
Holland has had exceptional games before, but not at this level.
"I mean, growing up as a kid, obviously this was the dream that I've wanted to do," Holland said. "I wanted to pitch in the World Series and get a win. And after idolizing Andy Pettitte and seeing that, I wanted to be like him. And I felt like I was capable of going out there and doing everything I could after last year. I wanted to redeem myself and show that I belong here to begin with, and I can pitch in a big game, as well."
The 16-run difference in Cardinals production, the "adjustments" that were made, were explained by Rangers manager Ron Washington like this:
"It was Holland and [catcher] Mike Napoli. [Holland] was able to use all his pitches all around the strike zone. He had good offspeed stuff tonight, kept them off balance, move them in, move them out, up, down, he was just outstanding. He and Napoli worked outstanding tonight. And that was the reason. It was Derek Holland and Mike Napoli."
The larger story is yet to be told. Maybe this start, this performance, this Holland/Napoli masterpiece, changed even more than 16 runs from one night to the next. Maybe it will eventually be seen as the turning point in the entire 2011 World Series.
Either way, the game changed completely over two nights in Texas. The Rangers couldn't slow down the Cardinals on Saturday night. The Rangers wouldn't allow the Cardinals even a trace of scoring Sunday night.
In the process, a 2-1 World Series became a 2-2 World Series. From night to night, baseball became a different game. For the Texas Rangers, it became a much better game.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.