The Texas Rangers got a much-needed boost with a successful series that ended in thrilling fashion.
That also provided a fitting prelude for a highly anticipated rematch.
In their first visit to St. Louis since a dramatic 2011 World Series, the Rangers will try to keep their momentum going against the Cardinals on Friday night.
Texas (41-32) had lost six in a row - its longest skid in three seasons - before winning three of four over AL West-leading Oakland this week. The Rangers held on for a 4-3 win in Thursday's series finale after catcher A.J. Pierzynski tagged Josh Donaldson for the game's final out.
The victory pushed Texas within one game of Oakland in the division.
"Any win right now is special, especially against a good team like the A's, especially to win the series," said shortstop Elvis Andrus , who made the relay throw to Pierzynski.
The Rangers now face the owners of the best record in the majors and visit a stadium where one of the franchise's most heartbreaking losses occurred.
Texas was one strike away from winning its first World Series title in 2011 until David Freese hit a game-tying triple in Game 6. The eventual World Series MVP also hit the winning home run in the 11th inning and had an early two-run double in a 6-2 victory in Game 7.
"It's going to be fun to go back there. I know a lot of people are going to talk about Game 6, but it's just another game in the regular season for us," Andrus told the team's website. "You kind of go back and think how close we were, but things happen for a reason. It helped us as a team, and hopefully we get in that situation soon."
Like the Rangers, the Cardinals (47-26) have won three of four this week, but their series victory came against one of the NL's worst teams - the Chicago Cubs . Matt Holliday homered and drove in two runs Thursday as St. Louis beat the Cubs 6-1.
"It was a great series. Any time you can win three of four it's really good," said Allen Craig , who had a pinch-hit, two-run single. "We played really good baseball."
Craig has 11 RBIs in his last 10 games, Holliday is batting .381 in his last 17 and now they both will try to help hand Derek Holland (5-4, 3.30 ERA) a third straight defeat.
The left-hander has been tagged for eight runs and 19 hits in 10 1-3 innings over his last two starts, losing to Cleveland and Toronto.
Holland, though, is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in his last four road starts and 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two outings against NL opponents this season. The left-hander won his only start against St. Louis, throwing 8 1-3 scoreless innings in Game 4 of the 2011 World Series.
He'll be opposed by another struggling pitcher, Tyler Lyons (2-3, 4.65). The rookie left-hander is 0-3 with a 7.41 ERA in three starts this month after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his first two games in the majors.
Lyons gave up a career-high six runs over 5 1-3 innings Sunday in a 7-2 loss at Miami.
The Cardinals and Rangers are meeting for only the second time in the regular season. St. Louis won two of three in Texas from June 11-13, 2004.
|June 13, 2013||Jeff Baker||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|June 07, 2013||Nelson Cruz||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|June 07, 2013||Michael Kirkman||60-Day DL||Cutaneous lymphoma in right triceps|
|June 06, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 06, 2013||Mitch Moreland||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|June 05, 2013||Mitch Moreland||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|May 21, 2013||Fernando Salas||15-Day DL||Right shoulder irritation|
|May 18, 2013||Jaime Garcia||60-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|May 09, 2013||Jake Westbrook||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Three runs down with none out in the first, Derek Holland and the Texas Rangers were in trouble. The lefty participated in the comeback by keeping the bat on his shoulder, and he found his stride on the mound, too.
Holland coaxed a two-out walk off Tyler Lyons to fuel a four-run second-inning rally that put the Rangers back in business, and the Rangers went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 on Friday night.
"Some of the guys were giving me a hard time with me and my swing," said Holland, who's 0 for 5 at the plate this season but with a pair of walks. "The main thing is to go out there and try to see as many pitches as you possibly can, and try to get his pitch count up.
"Lucky for me, I got the walk," he added.
Nelson Cruz snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single through a drawn-in infield in the opener of a series between 2011 World Series opponents.
Neal Cotts (4-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth when Jon Jay tapped out on a full-count pitch and Joe Nathan finished for his 23rd save in 24 chances. All of Cotts' decisions have come this month.
Left fielder David Murphy robbed Carlos Beltran of an extra-base hit and saved a run with a running catch at the wall in left-center to end it.
Allen Craig had two hits and two RBIs, plus he made a handful of outstanding plays at first base for the Cardinals. Joe Kelly worked five scoreless innings after Lyons was yanked in the second.
The opener of the three-game series drew a sellout of 45,228 to Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals closed out the '11 Series with wild wins in Games 6 and 7.
"For me it's just a game on our schedule and you have to play it," Rangers leadoff man Ian Kinsler said. "Obviously, there are memories of the stadium and memories of the field and stuff like that, but this is a different year and we're trying to win a series and continue to play good baseball."
This game had some of the drama that made that series one of the best in recent memory.
Rookie Trevor Rosenthal (1-1) struck out two in a perfect eighth but gave up two hits, botched a sacrifice attempt for an error and threw a wild pitch to the backstop in the ninth. Rosenthal's throw to second baseman Matt Carpenter covering first was off-line and off-speed and Andrus knocked the ball free.
"It looked like his glove, jersey and everything hit at the same time," manager Mike Matheny said.
Both managers insisted the matchup between 2011 World Series opponents was just another series, with Matheny noting both rosters have changed a lot and the Rangers' Ron Washington saying he's been over the gut-wrenching feeling left by those two final losses in St. Louis since the start of spring training in 2012.
Holland struck out the side in the seventh and retired the final 12 in order. Holland allowed three doubles and a walk to the first four hitters in the Cardinals' three-run first but gave up few hard-hit balls thereafter.
Andrus was in a 2-for-25 slump before his two-run single in the second chased Lyons, who lasted 1 2-3 innings. A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland opened the innings with doubles for a run and Nelson Cruz greeted Kelly with an RBI single to cap a four-run rally that put the Rangers up 4-3.
After winning his first two career starts for a rotation hit hard by injuries, Lyons is 0-3 with an 8.19 ERA in four outings.
"It just kind of snowballed on him a little bit," Matheny said. "He had trouble getting it in the zone and when he brought it back in he was already in favorable counts for the hitters."
Kelly was 5-7 in 16 starts last year after replacing injured Jaime Garcia and made one spot start earlier this month, and could replace Lyons.
A move might happen quicker to help the bullpen.
"If it arises, I mean, I'll take the ball and I'll be ready to give this team the best chance to win," Kelly said.
Matheny said a move might happen quicker to help the bullpen.
The Cardinals jumped on Holland in the first with three doubles and a walk the first four at-bats with Beltran driving in a run and Craig getting two RBIs. Pete Kozma doubled to open the second, advanced on the first of Kelly's two sacrifice bunts, and scored on a passed ball.
NOTES: The Rangers' top pitching prospect, lefty Martin Perez , will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to make his second career start Saturday. Perez is 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA in the minors. Washington said talk about an extended stay in the rotation was very premature. The Cardinals' Shelby Miller (8-4, 2.08) leads NL rookies in ERA. ... Moreland (hamstring) was activated from the 15-day DL earlier in the day and RHP Josh Lindblom was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock.