ARLINGTON -- The 2011 baseball season will end at Busch Stadium. While that was an awfully nice thought back in August, it isn't much consolation for the Cardinals in late October.
Edwin Jackson nibbled his way through 5 1/3 innings while Derek Holland devoured Cardinals hitters for 8 1/3 in a 4-0 St. Louis loss to Texas at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Sunday night. The defeat evened the World Series, 2-2, and guaranteed that this year's Fall Classic will return to St. Louis for at least a sixth game.
The Cardinals retain home-field advantage in the Series, with Games 6 and, if necessary, 7 set for Busch Stadium. They just had hoped not to need it. They'll send Chris Carpenter to the mound on Monday with the intent of heading home needing to win only once.
"These guys, they won the American League," designated hitter Lance Berkman said. "They have a great team. We have a great team. They've won two games and we've won two games. There's nothing really to read into it, just see who can win two of the next three. It's just a good series."
History still favors the Redbirds. Under the 2-3-2 format, 34 previous World Series have been tied, 2-2. The team with two home games remaining has won 21 of those series (61.7 percent).
The frustration for the Cardinals rests in the fact that they had a chance to be in much better position than that. They let the Rangers back in the Series after having a chance to take full control. Jackson was mostly effective but inefficient, done in by seven walks in 5 1/3 innings. He left with a 1-0 deficit before ultimately being charged with three runs.
Meanwhile, Holland was superb, showing top-shelf stuff while harnessing his sometimes inconsistent command in the biggest game of his life.
He was also helped by a St. Louis offense that looked very little like the one that hammered Matt Harrison the night before. The Cards struggled to do so much as get the ball out of the infield, and while they worked some long at-bats and innings early, by the end Holland was breezing.
"He was on," Berkman said. "The story of the game, for me, is Derek Holland was better than the St. Louis Cardinals tonight. He just was. He was great."
Jackson had a bit of a slow start followed by several effective innings. Josh Hamilton's one-out RBI double in the first put Texas ahead, but even after two ensuing walks, Jackson escaped the first without further damage. He then settled in, allowing a single in the second, two walks in the fourth, a walk in the fifth and finally the two walks that chased him in the sixth.
"You have seven walks, it's just a matter of time before they come up to catch up with you," Jackson said. "They did in the sixth. Throughout the game, though, I managed to battle my way through, wiggle my way out of some situations just to keep the game within striking distance."
It was after the last two free passes that the game turned from a tough task for the Cardinals to a nearly impossible one. Mitchell Boggs relieved Jackson against the extremely dangerous Mike Napoli. He threw a first-pitch fastball high and inside, and Napoli jumped it, driving it high and deep to left field for a three-run homer.
Boggs was trying to throw a sinking fastball down and in, with the hope of inducing a double play. Instead he left it in Napoli's happy zone, up and inside, and the slugger punished him for it.
"I wanted to go down and in because I wanted to get a ground ball," Boggs said. "I feel like with my sinker, I feel like I can get a ground ball from anybody. But I just left it up. I think he was looking for it, and he sold out, and he got it. So you tip your hat to him. I feel bad for Edwin because he gutted it out and was great all night."
Not that Holland needed the help. He cruised, allowing only a single and a double to Berkman and two walks while striking out seven. He mixed four pitches, throwing them all for strikes, and was never so much as threatened. A Cards team that hung 16 on the Rangers the night before was stifled from the start.
"Our pitcher was in complete control of the game. ... That was the story of the game," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young said. "Every game in postseason is huge, every game is massive and rightfully so, but Derek pitched a great game tonight."
Some Cards were frustrated with a wide strike zone, as Holland certainly got some borderline calls on the inside part of the plate. That caused some adjustment in hitters' approach to Holland. However, it wouldn't necessarily have mattered if the zone had been half as big. Holland mixed mid-90s heat with quality offspeed stuff, and the National League's best lineup looked overmatched.
"You can't do anything about it," said third baseman David Freese. "Strikes are strikes, balls are balls, and you battle.
"You've got to give credit to Holland. Right out of the gate, we knew it was going to be a tough night and we were going to have to battle. He was very impressive. I'll be honest. You don't like to give too much credit to the opposing pitcher, but tonight he was fantastic."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.