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Five keys to Game 4: Can Texas rebound?

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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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St. Louis has taken a 2-1 lead over Texas in the World Series.

What's more, both wins have come against left-handers — C.J. Wilson in Game 1 and Matt Harrison in Game 2. St. Louis was only 20-20 in games against left-handed starters during the regular season.

The Rangers run another lefty out there for Game 4 in Derek Holland.

That's one of five storylines to watch in Game 4 tonight.

LOOK AT ME

Albert Pujols is free-agent eligible when the season ends. If there is a hole in the Texas lineup, it is at first base. Could the World Series be an audition for Pujols?

He certainly made an impression in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night.

Pujols equaled his career highs in hits (5) and home runs (3), joining Babe Ruth, who did it twice, and Reggie Jackson, who did it once, as the only players with three home runs in a World Series game.

Time was good for Pujols. When he grounded out in the first inning he was 0-for-7 in the Series, including 0-for-6 in the first two games in St. Louis. Then came singles in his next two at-bats, and then came the home runs, off Alexi Ogando in the sixth, Mike Gonzalez in the seventh and Darren Oliver in the eighth.

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It was a startling contrast to the only other time Pujols had been a visitor in the Rangers' park. In 2004, the Cardinals had a three-game interleague series in Texas and Pujols was 1-for-14.

The game was the second time Pujols had five hits and three home runs in the same game. He last did it July 20, 2004, at Wrigley Field. He connected for home runs in that game off Glendon Rusch, Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins.

Pujols also had three home runs in an April 30, 2010, game at Wrigley Field, hitting two off Ryan Dempster and one off John Grabow. On Sept. 3, 2006, he hit all three homers in his first three at-bats against Pittsburgh, each of them off Ian Snell. His other three-homer game was April 6, 2006, against Cincinnati when he had home runs off Bronson Arroyo, Rick White and David Weathers.

Texas has an explosive offense, but first base has been a dud. During the 2011 season the Rangers first basemen hit 18 home runs, tied for 22nd among major league teams. They drove in 71 runs, 27th among the 30 big-league teams, and they had a .753 OPS, 23rd. Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis received the bulk of the playing time, but in the first three World Series games, Michael Young started the two in St. Louis and was the DH on Saturday when Mike Napoli, after catching the two games at St. Louis, played first.

CALCULATOR PLEASE

After two games in which a total of eight runs were scored in St. Louis to open the World Series, the Cards pounded out a 16-7 victory at Texas in Game 3. Surprised?

Don't be.

There's no place like Texas when it comes to scoring runs.

Texas not only led the majors with 498 runs scored at home in 2011, but Rangers Ballpark at Arlington was No. 1 overall with 896 runs being scored in 81 games, an average of 11.06 per game. Teams scored 870 runs at Fenway Park in Boston, 866 at Coors Field in Colorado, 809 at Yankee Stadium in New York and 805 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 487 runs were scored at AT&T Park in San Francisco, 543 at Petco Park in San Diego, 590 at Safeco Field in Seattle, 592 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and 594 at the Rays' home, Tropicana Field, in Clearwater, Fla.

Rangers HOPE

Looking for a bounce back night, and looking for a big game at the plate, the Rangers can anticipate good things with Edwin Jackson starting for St. Louis.

Jackson has been St. Louis' good luck charm of late. The Cardinals have won seven of his last eight starts, including all three during the postseason, even though he allowed eight earned runs and four homers in 12 1/3 innings. He was 1-0 in September, but the Cardinals were 5-1 in his starts.

Jackson has not had a lot of success against Texas, however. He lost 4-0 to the Rangers during the regular season when he was with Detroit. His career record is 2-3 with a 4.02 ERA.

More than that, the top six hitters in the Texas lineup are 29-for-79 against Jackson, and that includes having held Josh Hamilton to one hit in six at-bats. Ian Kinsler is 6-for-18 with two home runs off Jackson.

Rangers FEAR

Texas hasn't bounced back well from double-digit defeats at home. The Rangers gave up 10 or more runs in eight losses at home during the regular season. They were 2-8 in the next game.

MLB

WORLD SERIES CENTRAL

Cardinals are crowned the champs. Look back on every game of the Fall Classic on FOX.

Aug. 23-24-25, in fact, they lost back-to-back games to Boston 11-5 and 13-2, then suffered a 6-0 loss to the Red Sox. That was the only time they gave up 10 or more runs in a game at home in the second half.

The two times they did win after giving up 10 or more runs were April 27 when they bounced back from a 10-3 loss to Toronto to beat the Blue Jays 7-6. Derek Holland, who starts Game 4, started that win against Toronto. On May 28, Texas bounced back from a 12-7, 14-inning loss to Kansas City with a 10-1 victory.

After allowing a 15-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on April 19 — the most runs Texas allowed in a regular season game — the Rangers lost to the Angels 4-1 the next day. They lost 12-5 to the New York Yankees on May 8 and 7-2 at home to Oakland on May 9. Detroit beat Texas 13-7 on June 6 and 8-1 on June 7, then lost to the Mets 14-5 on June 25 and 8-5 on June 26.

TIME TO FORGET

Derek Holland, Texas' starter in Game 4, would like to forget his first World Series, a year ago. He was used as a reliever for Texas, and in his debut in Game 2 he came on with a 2-0 deficit and walked all three hitters he faced, including left-handed hitters Nate Schierholtz and Aubrey Huff. He threw 12 balls and only one strike. He did work a scoreless inning in Game 4, but that was a 4-0 loss.

Holland was a key part of the Texas rotation this year. He was 16-5, fourth in the AL in wins. In his final six regular season starts he was 5-0 with a 2.07 ERA, and he is 1-0 in three starts this postseason.

He does have strange splits, however. He was 8-2 in 16 home starts this year, but had a 4.69 ERA. He was 8-3 in 16 road starts with a 3.39 ERA. And after the All-Star break he was 9-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 14 starts.

Rest assured Nick Punto will be back in the St. Louis lineup. He is 3-5 against Holland with two home runs.

Tagged: Rangers, Cardinals, Albert Pujols, Edwin Jackson, Derek Holland

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