The weekend at Busch Stadium actually ended on a weekday for the Texas Rangers, as their Sunday Night Baseball game was delayed by rain for nearly three hours and ended well after midnight.
The outcome was well worth the wait.
Leonys Martin and Ian Kinsler had RBI singles in the seventh inning, and Joe Nathan earned a save for the fourth consecutive game as the Rangers finished off a three-game sweep of St. Louis with a 2-1 victory.
Nick Tepesch rebounded after three poor starts to allow only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, and did well to match the work turned by Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
The win was the Rangers’ fifth straight and gave them sole possession of first place in the American League West as they enter their first off day since June 3. They wrapped up a stretch of 20 games in 20 days with a 9-11 record, which rates as somewhat remarkable after losing six straight at one point.
Tepesch and Wainwright, already a 10-game winner, kept hitters largely silent through five innings. Tepesch didn’t allow his first hit until the fifth, and the Rangers had managed only three singles before finally pushing a base runner into scoring position in the sixth.
St. Louis broke through first as former TCU start Matt Carpenter opened the Cardinals’ sixth with his sixth homer of the season, and Tepesch lasted only four more batters before Robbie Ross (4-1) was summoned for the final out.
Tepesch had allowed 17 runs in his previous three starts, covering 15 2/3 innings, and said that the difference against St. Louis was simply better execution of his pitches.
“I threw just one bad pitch,” he said. “I didn’t think it was that bad of a pitch, actually.”
It looked like the Rangers would go quickly in the seventh as Wainwright retired the first two batters before yielding a double to David Murphy. Martin saw Wainwright pump in two quick strikes against him, but worked a full count and fouled off another pitch before lining a single through the middle for the equalizer.
“Obviously, it was an important at-bat,” Martin said. “He was trying to make me swing the bat. I was just trying to protect the zone.”
Said Wainwright: “I’ve got to tip my hat to Murphy, 3-2 count, stays back on a curveball and hits it off the wall. That’s a pretty good job of hitting right there. Martin battled me for seven pitches in a row. I’ll tip my hat to him, too.”
Wainwright (10-5) was done, and the Rangers appeared to be done in the seventh, too, when pinch-hitter Jurickson Profar, the next hitter, sent a soft liner toward shortstop Pete Kozma. But the ball squirted out of his glove and fell to the ground for an error, and Kinsler jumped on a 2-0 fastball from Trevor Rosenthal to drive in Martin.
“The guy is a pretty good shortstop, and he’s only human,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Things like that happen in this game.”
Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers each worked a scoreless inning to get the ball to Nathan in the ninth. Matt Adams and Jon Jay collected one-out hits, and Kozma followed with a line drive to third base that Adrian Beltre snared and threw to second for a game-ending double play.
“I went with a slider and got it far enough off the sweet spot that he was able to get it over to AB,” said Nathan, who threw 58 pitches the past four games. “I definitely felt the effects of all of the throwing. I concentrated on location today. I think my stuff was still pretty decent.”
The Rangers, who suffered a sixth straight loss June 17, like where they are as they head to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series that starts Tuesday.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Murphy said. “We played great against the A’s and we played great against these guys. You want to keep it going because you’ve got to like what you’re seeing.”