Holland earns win, praise for stifling Yankees
Lefty gives Rangers' bats time with 3 2/3 shutout innings
NEW YORK -- The 2010 regular season was filled with injury and frustration for Rangers left-hander Derek Holland.
While his performance Tuesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series won't erase all of that, it goes a long way toward making it easier to take.
With his team teetering on the brink of letting the Yankees take control of the game and possibly tie the series at two games apiece, Holland relieved struggling starter Tommy Hunter with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth.
Holland got Brett Gardner to ground into a fielder's choice, thanks to a great diving stop by shortstop Elvis Andrus. Alex Rodriguez scored on the play to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead, but Holland went on to get Francisco Cervelli to strike out looking to end the threat.
Holland then threw three more scoreless innings as the Texas offense came alive and took control of the game en route to a 10-3 win and a 3-1 series lead.
"Holland did a great job," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said. "He came in there and got big outs."
"Derek came in and settled things down a little bit until we could get in the flow of the game offensively, and we ended up doing that," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
The effort garnered Holland the win, but at the same time, he also deserved a save for the way he kept the Rangers from having to burn out the bullpen.
"He came in and he won the game," Hunter said. "That's huge, he stepped up, picked me up, picked the team up and you can't ask for anything else. He came through clutch tonight, about as clutch as you can come through. That's the cool thing about this game. You're going to have chances to pick other people up and he had a good opportunity tonight and he did a heck of a job."
Holland even impressed the most impressive pitcher on the staff.
"That was big for him to come in and eat up some innings and keep us where we were at," ace left-hander Cliff Lee said. "It was really big."
The Rangers looked for big things from Holland when he went to Spring Training as a favorite to win a spot in the rotation, but a knee injury set him back and he started the season in Triple-A.
Called up in May, he was impressive in his first handful of outings before the injury bug bit him once again and he missed two months with left rotator cuff inflammation.
"It's something that's still going to motivate me for next season," he said of his struggles this year. "You don't want to have injuries and just continue to work hard and keep pushing yourself and great things will happen to you. It shows from right here [by] me being hurt and coming back."
Holland appeared in 14 games (10 starts) for the Rangers and went 3-4 with a 4.08 ERA.
In the AL Division Series against the Rays, he allowed three earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. While he threw two scoreless innings in Game 1 of the ALCS, he allowed one of his two inherited runners to score with what proved to be the game-winning run for the Yankees.
"This is something I dreamed about and I wanted to help my team in any way," Holland said. "It has been a rough season, but the main thing is to never give up, keep pushing and good things will happen to you."
There were admittedly some butterflies in his stomach as he trotted to the mound with the crowd on its feet sensing a knockout blow coming from the hometown hitters.
"I was definitely a little nervous coming into Yankee Stadium, especially in the playoffs, but at the same time, you have to have fun with it," the 24-year-old said.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.