Red Sox

McAdam at the WS: Holland to the rescue

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McAdam at the WS: Holland to the rescue

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The 4-0 lead seemed safe, or as safe as a lead can be when Albert Pujols is due up two hitters later. And so, for the 51,539 in attendance at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, the only ninth inning drama Sunday night centered around whether manager Ron Washington would let Derek Holland finish what he started.

Holland was two outs shy of becoming the first starter since Josh Beckett (Game 6, 2003) to throw a complete-game shutout in the World Series, and the first to do so in the American League since Jack Morris's Game 7 masterpiece in 1991.

The conversation lasted a few minutes and cameras showed both Holland and Washington enjoying a good laugh.

Later, after Texas closer Neftali Feliz nailed down the final two outs to complete the 4-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series, the two shared the details of their mound talk.

"He was begging to stay in the game," said Washington with a smile. "I just told him if you want to stay out here, get on your knees."

Then Washington paused for comic effect.

"He walked off the field," the manager said.

"I was begging, as he said," said a somewhat sheepish Holland. "I didn't get on my knees . . . I was trying everything I could to stay out there, but unfortunately, I couldn't."

In retrospect, it was about the only thing Holland didn't do Sunday night. He limited the St. Louis Cardinals, the same St. Louis Cardinals who totaled 16 runs the night before, to two hits -- both to Lance Berkaman.

Holland was supremely efficient. He had five 1-2-3 innings and another inning in which he faced the minimum number of hitters. And in perhaps the most amazing feat, the Cardinals hit just three balls into the outfield all night.

Beyond Berkman's two hits -- a double to right in the second and a leadoff single to center in the fifth -- the only other ball to reach the outfield was a routine flyout to center by Yadier Molina in the fifth.

Otherwise, the Cards had nothing but bad swings off Holland, with a succession of slow rollers, foul balls and weak popups. Holland made like some daredevil pilot at an air show.

"In, out, up, down . . . " said Washington. "He was just outstanding."

Indeed he was, which was quite a turnaround from his previous starts this postseason. In one ALDS outing and another two in the ALCS against Detroit, Holland had combined to pitch a total of 12 13 innings. He couldn't get out of the third in Game 2 of the ALCS, and was done before the fifth inning was complete in Game 6.

It wasn't for lack of stuff. Holland showed over the course of the regular season -- during which he won 16 games -- that he can be dominant. In 11 of his 32 starts, Holland allowed one or no runs and he had four complete-game shutouts.

What occasionally hinders Holland, however, are his emotions. He tends to be excitable, with lots of nervous energy both on the mound and off.

That's why it was a good sign that he sat quietly in the dugout between innings Sunday, rather than his usual habit of pacing.

The newfound calm, he said, was the result of a different mental approach.

"It's more like a boxing approach," said Holland, "is what I've been telling everybody. I've got nine rounds and in between innings is when I sit in my corner and relax."

But the key to keeping himself under control may have come before the game. Fox cameras caught Washington talking to Holland, his hands on his starter's shoulders, delivering an earnest pep talk minutes before the lefty took the mound.

Holland listened attentively, nodding occasionally, soaking in the message. Washington was reminding Holland to not go too far inside on the Cardinals' lineup.

"I made sure that when I went in," Holland said, "it was to kind of brush them off the plate a little bit, so I could expand the zone a little."

Washington's message seemed to take and produce the desired result. After racing around the bases in Game 3, the Cards had only one baserunner reach scoring position against Holland.

Not even Pujols was a factor, going hitless in three at-bats off Holland. Of course, it helped that, each time he came to the plate, the bases were empty and Holland could afford to pitch more aggressively than he otherwise might.

It was that kind of night for Holland, a night in which everything he tried worked, right up until his ninth-inning appeal to his manager.

NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE