CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Thanks to Holland, Rangers' bullpen refreshed

Thanks to Holland, Rangers' bullpen refreshed

Thanks to Holland, Rangers' bullpen refreshed
ARLINGTON -- It was right in the middle of Sunday's first inning, just after Derek Holland had forced the immortal Albert Pujols to ground out on a tricky changeup, when Mike Adams turned to Scott Feldman in the Rangers' bullpen and told him he felt this could be the night.

"That was the last time we said anything," Adams later recalled. "As the game starts going on, you don't want to jinx it."

But there would be no jinx in Game 4 of the World Series. Holland eventually became the first Rangers starter to even get through seven innings this postseason -- and at last, Texas' bullpen got a much-needed breather.

More

Of course, the most important thing about Holland's 8 1/3-inning shutout is the fact that it gave the Rangers a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals and evened up this best-of-seven World Series at two games apiece. But because Holland's gem meant the Rangers' gassed relievers only needed to account for two outs -- captured by closer Neftali Feliz -- his outing was almost as important for the future as it was for the present.

"We needed a break big time," Adams, the Rangers' setup man, said of the bullpen he's a crucial member of. "We've accumulated a lot of innings this postseason. It's been a long season, and everybody's a little bit worn down right now."

Heading into Game 4, the Rangers' bullpen had accounted for 52 1/3 of the team's 118 innings in this postseason -- about 44 percent -- and was coming off a night in which five relievers accounted for 5 1/3 frames while surrendering 10 runs.

Through each of the previous 13 postseason games, Rangers manager Ron Washington had deployed at least four pitchers. And through the first three games of this series, that overusage had begun to display itself in the form of ineffectiveness, especially with regard to Alexi Ogando.

With that in mind, the relief corps will gladly take a break -- especially one that comes in the middle of playing three games in three nights.

"It was huge, man," lefty Mike Gonzalez said. "Bigger than you can imagine. It revamped our bullpen. Obviously, Ogando needed that big blow. Everybody, but especially Ogando."

Ogando was the one who became the Rangers' secret weapon when he moved from the rotation to the bullpen for the playoffs. On Sunday -- because he had thrown 35 pitches while giving up three runs the night before, and because he had allowed at least one inherited runner to score in each game of this series -- he was the one Washington wanted to stay away from most.

"He's been starting all year, and then you put him in the bullpen -- he's almost at the end; he's almost ready to run out of gas," veteran lefty Darren Oliver said. "It was nice for him to take the day off and get a break."

Holland gave Ogando that luxury.

By effectively pitching inside in a manner Rangers starters hadn't really been able to in a while, and using that as a primary weapon to give up just two hits and two walks en route to 25 outs, he contributed the third-longest start in Rangers postseason history and the longest overall shutout in the World Series since 1996.

The Rangers have used 54 relievers over 14 games in these playoffs -- fifth-most all-time -- and in eight of those games, at least four had checked in.

"Now everybody in that bullpen is ready for tomorrow," said Feliz, who was making just his second appearance of this series and thus represented the only semi-rested primary reliever in the Rangers' bullpen.

"It's a revamped bullpen, man," Gonzalez added. "And then after [Monday's Game 5] we got the day off. So we go out there, everybody can go and do what they need to do, just in case. But we feel that [Game 5 starter C.J. Wilson is] going to go out there and get it done, man. Same way."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less