The Rangers’ magnum opus of failure reached its climax almost 2 weeks ago, and I imagine that many of you opted to go into a sort-of baseball coma rather than dedicate time to the postseason.
Personally, I wouldn’t blame you for taking a break, if that’s what you chose to do. The last 3 seasons have been a beating and there’s no moral obligation to watch the playoffs if your team isn’t involved.
If you do happen to be one of those hiatus takers I mentioned, you probably missed what St. Louis did in D.C. last Friday night.
In short, the Cards went Game 6 all over again when the Nats’ closer couldn’t make a 2-run lead hold up. It was a tough scene to watch, because I knew all too well what those Washington fans were going through.
As it was Drew Storen who blew the save and surrendered the lead and lost the game, he will be the pitcher that history remembers. However, I think the game actually started to unravel 2 innings earlier when Davey Johnson brought in another pitcher that probably had no business being in the game.
In the 7th, with his club up by 3, the manager had to bring someone in to get the ball to his set-up guy and closer. Rather than handing it to one of his relievers, Johnson called on Edwin Jackson.
(If you’re unfamiliar with Jackson’s work, he’s an okay starting pitcher that has made all of 1 regular season relief appearance in the last 4 years. He also made a start in game 3 of this series, in which he surrendered 4 runs in 5 innings.)
Bringing Jackson in seemed like a mistake and my concerns were validated by a double, 2 walks, and an earned run that pulled the Cards within 2. That, in my opinion, was the beginning of the end.
The reason I bring this up is because the whole sequence reminded me of something that’s been bothering me for a while, a question that I can’t seem to shake from the back of my mind.
That is, why has Ron Washington insisted on using Derek Holland as a reliever in some of the most important moments in recent Ranger history?
For your benefit, I’ve listed some examples below…
October 28, 2010 – World Series Game 2 in San Francisco
Holland enters the game with a runner on 1st and 2 out. The Rangers are down 2-0 in the game and 1-0 in the series.
The first two hitters walk on 8 total pitches to load the bases. The third hitter walks in a run on 5 pitches. Holland is then pulled for Mark Lowe.
13 pitches, 1 strike, and a free run. That is the lasting impression of Holland in the 2010 WS.
October 27, 2011 – World Series Game 6 in St. Louis
Holland enters in the 6th in relief of an exhausted Alexi Ogando, who has just allowed the Cardinals to tie the game. Holland shuts down the St. Louis rally and also works a perfect 7th.
In the mean time, the Rangers take a 3-run lead and look ready to bury the Cards once and for all.
Holland comes back out in the 8th and surrenders a 1-out solo homerun to Allen Craig. The lead is cut to 2.
I doubt you remember the 8th as vividly as you remember the 9th, but don’t discount its significance. Even at the time I worried that Holland opening the door, even a little bit, might give St. Louis a chance to kick it in.
As we all know, they were actually about to tear it right off the hinges.
October 3, 2012 – Game 162 in Oakland
Holland enters in the 4th with the Rangers up 5-3. 2 men are on, nobody is out, and the AL West may be on the line.
Holland manages 2 quick outs, but his next pitch is a middle-middle grapefruit that Coco Crisp lines into right field for a double. The game is tied and before too much longer Oakland will take the lead on Josh Hamilton’s now infamous drop.
Texas can’t recover and the A’s win the division.
October 5, 2012 – American League Wild Card Play-In Game
Yu Darvish has pitched 7.2 innings, has held the Orioles to 2 runs (1 ER), and sits at 91 pitches on the night. With a runner on 2nd and 2 out, Wash pulls Darvish from the game and brings Holland out of the ‘pen.
Holland’s first pitch is a wild pitch, which moves the runner to 3rd. He then gives up a single, which scores the runner and gives the Orioles a 2-run edge.
Baltimore goes on to win and 2012 is over for the Texas Rangers.
After the game, Wash explains that he brought in Holland for the lefty-lefty matchup, while at the same time failing to explain why Robbie Ross or Michael Kirkman or even Koji Uehara weren’t better options.
I recently heard someone explain that the problem with C.J. Wilson (as a starting pitcher) is that he approaches his starts like a reliever. In the very 1st inning, he’s pitching like it’s already the 8th or 9th.
This reliever’s mentality leads to a lot of walks, because Wilson is afraid to give in to hitters and gets too caught up in trying to throw perfect pitches.
When it comes to Derek Holland, I wonder if the opposite is true.
Maybe he approaches his relief appearances with a starter’s mentality. Maybe he shouldn’t be charged with keeping inherited runners from scoring. Maybe he can’t reach back for that little bit extra when the game is on the line.
Maybe he’s just not a good relief option and maybe Wash should consider that the next time he passes over his LOOGY in favor of the Dutch Oven.
Press on, Rangers fans.
Mike Luna is a Staff Writer for ShutDowninning.com. He can be reached at Mike.Luna@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @twbbg.