ST. LOUIS -- Matt Harrison or Derek Holland?
That's the question Rangers fans might contemplate as they endure a winter of wondering how this year's World Series might have ended more successfully for their team.
Manager Ron Washington stuck to his decision to start Harrison in Friday night's decisive Game 7 over Holland, who pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings in Game 4. Harrison absorbed the decision in the 6-2 defeat, allowing the Cardinals three runs on five hits in four innings. But Washington publicly entertained no alternatives, displaying his penchant for remaining loyal to his players and the roles they occupy -- and for sticking to his own convictions.
Asked directly whether anything about the Harrison-versus-Holland issue will linger in the back of his mind, Washington said, "There's not going to be anything in the back of my mind. I did what I thought was best for us. A lot of people have opinions about things, but as I said the first time I sat down here when we came down to St. Louis, I know my team better than anybody in this room."
Texas trailed only 3-2 when Harrison departed. But the left-hander lost command after retiring the first two hitters he faced. He yielded World Series Most Valuable Player David Freese's two-run double following walks to Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman in the opening frame. Of the first 17 pitches Harrison threw, only five were strikes.
"I was trying to stay aggressive, but I was missing early in the count," Harrison said. "I made a mistake on that 3-2 pitch to Freese. I think it just gave them confidence."
Harrison finished 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA in his two Fall Classic starts, which paled alongside Holland's 1-0, 0.87 showing that included a two-inning relief stint in Game 6. But Harrison was the more consistent performer in the first two postseason rounds, recording a 4.22 ERA in three appearances. Holland had a 5.27 ERA in four games, including an 8.59 mark in two American League Championship Series starts against Detroit.
Holland refused to get dragged into the debate over whether he should have started the decisive game.
"I'm a team guy," he said. "I may be happy with how I may have done some things, but at the same time, I didn't do my job to help our team win the World Series. I just feel like there was more that we could do."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.