ARLINGTON (AP) – Texas left-hander Derek Holland had just gotten out of the shower at home Sunday afternoon, and was about to make his usual pre-start shave, when the phone rang.
It was a club official calling to say Game 2 of the ALCS was postponed. The few wisps of hair on Holland’s chin and near his ears would have another day to grow.
“They told me, `You’re free. You’ve got the night off. Just come play some catch,”‘ Holland said. “So, that’s what I did.”
Although Holland was ready to make the second postseason start of his career — taking on the Detroit Tigers, with the Rangers leading the series 1-0 — he didn’t mind waiting another day.
Holland figured it gives him more time to rest, review video of himself and the Detroit hitters and go through all his other pre-start routines, from playing a hockey game on his Xbox to watching a chunk of the movie “For Love of the Game.”
“Getting this extra day of rest is the more important thing, especially to clear up some of the sinus stuff that I’ve got going on,” Holland said, later stressing that his sniffles were no big deal. “I can just kind of relax and watch more video. Maybe I’ll pick up something that I didn’t see before. So that’s a good thing to have, too.”
Any fear of watching too much video, perhaps overanalyzing himself or the Tigers?
“I don’t let that kind of thing happen,” he said. “I’ll watch, but I’m not going to spend so much time on it to where it’s really taking over and I’m not thinking about what I should be doing.”
A reliever last postseason, Holland earned a spot near the front of this year’s playoff rotation by going 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA.
He started Game 2 of the division series against Tampa Bay and outdueled James Shields, picking up the win by allowing three runs, but only one earned, in five innings. The Rangers had lost the opener of that series, and they haven’t lost since this postseason.
Holland, who turned 25 on Saturday, didn’t face the Tigers this year. In three big league seasons, he’s only pitched once against Detroit, giving up one run and four hits over four innings.
He won’t be facing the same Tigers lineup that ousted the Yankees in the first round.
Delmon Young, the No. 3 hitter who hit three homers against New York, was left off the roster this round because of a strained oblique muscle. On Sunday, Detroit announced right fielder Magglio Ordonez, who batted fifth in the opener, will miss the rest of the postseason after he re-fractured his right ankle, which had been surgically repaired in July 2010. That’s both corner outfielders and two bats from the middle of the lineup.
“They’re still a good ballclub,” Holland said. “Just because those two guys are out, you’ve still got other guys you’ve got to go through. You can’t take it lightly.”
Something that should be taken lightly is that fuzzy thing on Holland’s upper lip.
It looks horribly out of place on his baby face, and he proudly calls it the worst mustache in baseball. It is known as the “Dutchstache” — a play on his nickname, the Dutch Oven, itself a play on his last name and his fastball — and has its own Twitter account with more than 700 followers.
No wonder that pre-start shave is such a sacred ritual, one of many he has.
Holland used to gorge on Wendy’s, spending up to $30 on a single meal, but he’s cut down on the greasy intake. He admits hitting a drive-thru window Saturday night, but insisted that on Sunday he’d be having pasta with his family.
The “For Love of the Game” schtick dates to his college days. Funny thing is, he’s never even seen the entire flick, which stars Kevin Costner as a veteran pitcher throwing a perfect game in his last career start. He actually fell asleep the first time he watched it, although he insists it was because he was tired, not because he lost interest.
He was so inspired by the part he remembered that he decided, “Let’s use it somehow.” Now, he cues it up to the same spot every night before he starts.
“It’s from the very beginning, where he’s getting ready to go to the game, and then he gets to the game, changes, goes out,” Holland said. “As soon as he throws the first pitch, I turn it off. … I just use it because I picture it as if it’s me. It’s more of a mental thing. You watch it, it gets stuck in your head: `I’m taking over from here. This is how it should look.”‘
He’ll find out again Monday afternoon.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)