NOTEBOOK: Rangers counting on LHP Holland to chill out
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Derek Holland insists he didn't feel jittery while starting Game 2 of the AL championship series.
The Texas left-hander sure looked and pitched like it, giving up four hits and four walks while getting just eight outs against Detroit.
As he prepares to start Game 6 on Saturday, the 25-year-old with the fuzzy mustache says he's learned a lesson about getting a grip on himself.
"I felt calm, but everybody said you could see that I was going a little too fast for the way I usually work," Holland said Friday. "So the big thing now is just to control myself, and I feel like I'm going to be doing just fine with that tomorrow."
Holland is the kind of young talent who can be terrific (four shutouts this season, tied for AL's best) or terrible (four starts of less than four innings). In two starts and a relief outing this postseason, he is 1-0 with four earned runs, and six total, over nine innings. He's walked six and struck out two.
"You can't think about those kind of things going into tomorrow's game," he said. "You have to stay positive. That's the big thing."
Texas starters were a big reason the club won a franchise-record 96 games this season, but they're not much of the reason the Rangers are a win away from a second straight World Series. In nine games this postseason, none has gone more than six innings.
Manager Ron Washington believes Holland can break that trend in Game 6.
"If he corral that anxiety that goes with the competition, I think we may finally see a guy get deep in the ballgame," Washington said. "But that's something that Holland have to control within himself. We can talk to him. We can tell him what he have to do. But once he cross those lines, it's all on him. And that's been his problem. It's not his stuff. It's just trying to control anxiety."
The Rangers haven't lost back-to-back games this postseason, and they're coming off a loss in Game 5.
They also won Game 6 of the ALCS at home last postseason. The difference is they were coming off a momentum-building victory over the Yankees in New York, and this time they're coming off a loss in Detroit.
"We know what's at stake, and we clearly will go out there and try to play to what the game asks us to do and try to execute in certain situations," Washington said. "In the end, good things will happen. Having been through it, yes, we're more confident and, yes, we're very relaxed."
The Tigers feel pretty good about their chances, too.
"The series is still alive," said Max Scherzer, Detroit's Game 6 starter. "We're still playing baseball. I think we all believe in each other that if we can win Game 6 that anything can happen in Game 7. We're pretty relaxed as a whole. We're not really fazed by any of the situations that's have been presented to us."
OPTING OUT: The Rangers had an optional workout Friday, and outfielder Josh Hamilton and third baseman Adrian Beltre opted not to participate.
Hamilton has a groin injury. Beltre has a bruised knee caused by a foul ball hit off it earlier in the series.
"I think we all are banged up at this point of the year," Washington said. "Yes, Hamilton had some discomfort. ... It's an issue that we have to deal with. But he will show up and he will be in the lineup and he will play."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave his entire team a day away from the ballpark. They didn't even fly to Texas until the afternoon.
"I'm glad we got an off day to give the wounded a better chance to heal up a little bit better and (relievers Joaquin) Benoit and (Jose) Valverde a couple of days rest," Leyland said. "Hopefully that works to our advantage."
The Tigers have been dealing with all sorts of injuries, losing Delmon Young, then Miguel Cabrera, only to get Young back. Leyland said that as of his midday conference call, there were no new issues.
"Unless they trip on the plane or something I guess they'll be all right," he said. "I haven't gotten any negative feedback from our trainers. I assume all systems are a go."
LEYLAND & LARUSSA: As busy as he is this postseason, Tigers manager Jim Leyland still talks to his good buddy Tony every day. Then again, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa is busy, too, yet he makes time to talk to his pal Jim.
"I spoke to him this morning already," Leyland said Friday on a midday conference call with reporters.
Leyland said he's been able to watch most of the Cardinals' games and discuss them with LaRussa. He was planning on being in Dallas in time to watch Game 5 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Brewers.
"It's nice on an off day you can sit around and watch your buddy in a big game as well," Leyland said. "That's a great series. We have a great series going. That's what the final four is all about."
PITCHING TO MIGGY: Rangers manager Ron Washington has learned his lesson about pitching to Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera hit what looked like a double-play ball to third baseman Adrian Beltre in Game 5, only to see it pop off the bag and over Beltre's head for a double that jumpstarted a game-changing inning. Thus, Washington is leaning toward not pitching to AL batting champion.
"If the opportunity presents itself that we feel like his swing of the bat can hurt us, we won't let him swing it," Washington said.
Washington walked Cabrera with the bases empty in Game 4. He nearly scored but was thrown out at the plate by Nelson Cruz while trying to tag up.
Cabrera has seven walks in five games, two of them intentional. He also has six hits, five going for extra bases.
"You just have to try to make your pitches and hope that he doesn't do it in situations where he can hurt you and he keeps the ball in the ballpark," Washington said. "That's all we can do."
ZIP, ZILCH, NOTHING, NADA: How's this for the weather forecast for Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS? Not a drop of rain is expected.
Considering how wet this postseason has been, it's a nice sight for Major League Baseball officials, and for executives at Fox, which have had their schedule jiggled because of rain.
MARCUM STAYS PUT: Shaun Marcum has been struggling for more than a month, but Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has no plans to pull him from his scheduled start in Game 6 of the NLCS.
"Right now we are set on Game 6," Roenicke said prior to Game 5 on Friday in St. Louis. "I don't know what would come up to change my mind on that, but we talked about it quite a bit and we feel great with Marcum going, just like we felt great with Wolf going yesterday. We expect a real good game from Shaun."
Wolf, like Marcum, got hit hard in the division series against Arizona, before rebounding with seven strong innings in a 4-2 win Thursday that evened the series at 2-2.
Marcum's struggles have been more of a trend than an aberration. He has surrendered five runs or more in five of his last six starts, with an 8.18 ERA over that period. In two postseason starts, he is 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA. The Cardinals roughed him up for five runs on seven hits in four innings in a 12-3 win in Game 2.
"I've got to make better-quality pitches, and that's something I haven't been doing lately," Marcum said.
But Marcum said he doesn't let his recent struggles get him down.
"I don't dwell on the past and I don't get too high when I've done well," he said. "I try to stay even keel."
Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Marcum needs better command of his fastball, "and it needs to be down in the strike zone. He pounds the ball and he pounds the ball down in the strike zone, and he's gotten some balls up and it hurt him."
Roenicke could opt to pitch ace Yovani Gallardo in Game 6 on Sunday, but he'd be going on three days' rest. Roenicke said he's reluctant to ask the right-hander to do something he's never done.
But if Gallardo offered?
"If Yo came to me and said, 'You know something, I feel great, I'd love to come back on three days,' it makes you think a little bit," Roenicke said. "But until that happens, I don't want to go to a player and ask him to do something that he hasn't done all year, hasn't done in his career."
BULLPEN GURU? La Russa is known for going to the bullpen early and often, and this postseason has been no exception. St. Louis relievers have already worked 17 1/3 innings through the first four games of the NLCS.
The Cardinals manager will often make multiple switches in an inning. He said Friday that the inspiration for his obsessive manipulation was not a manager or pitching coach, but a famous hitting instructor.
"I follow one consistent piece of advice that Charlie Lau gave me," La Russa said. "Met him in '63 when I was 18 years old, he was a backup catcher then."
Lau, who died in 1984, earned a reputation as a revolutionary hitting coach for the Orioles, Athletics, Royals, Yankees and White Sox.
"He would tell me the thing that would worry him most about being a hitting coach is when a manager on the other side had a bullpen and made it as tough as he could to score the inning that you are playing," La Russa said. "If you get into the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning, to the extent that you have the pitchers and the lineup you're facing, you try to make it as hard as you can to score that inning."
CARDINAL LOVE: Coming to the Cardinals at the trade deadline revitalized shortstop Rafael Furcal's season. He's eligible for free agency but would like to stay.
The Cardinals have expressed interest in retaining the 34-year-old, who has one of the better arms at his position and still has great range.
"Yeah, who wouldn't want to play for the Cardinals?" Furcal said. "I love it here. I love the fans and the players and everybody is on the same page and everybody wants to win."
After missing time with injuries earlier in the year, Furcal said he feels fresh for mid-October. He batted just .197 in 37 games with the Dodgers, but stepped it up to .255 with St. Louis.
"When he's healthy, he's a multidimensional player," manager Tony La Russa said. "What you don't know until you have him on your team is how excited he is about competing."
Furcal likes playing for the no-nonsense La Russa, too, adding, "Who wouldn't want to play for one of the best managers in all of baseball?"