Nelson Cruz delivered a tie-breaking, two-run single in the top of the ninth inning that lifted the Texas Rangers to a 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the teams' first meeting since the 2011 World Series.
Returning to Busch Stadium for the first time since dropping Games 6 and 7 of that year's Fall Classic in heartbreaking fashion, the Rangers left the opener of this three-game set rejoicing after Cruz shot a ground ball up the middle off Trevor Rosenthal (1-1) that ultimately gave Texas its fourth win in its last five outings.
Cruz had an RBI single earlier in the game, with Elvis Andrus contributing a two-run hit and Derek Holland bouncing back from a rough beginning to threw seven innings.
Holland was reached for four early runs, but yielded just four hits and three walks before turning the game over to Neal Cotts (4-1), who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth to keep the contest tied at 4-4.
"It was great to be able to stay focused and not let what happened in the first inning affect the rest of the game," Holland said.
Joe Kelly tossed five scoreless frames in an outstanding effort in relief of Cards starter Tyler Lyons, removed after just 1 2/3 innings after surrendering four runs and issuing three walks.
"Everything just kind of snowballed on (Lyons) a bit. He was having trouble getting it in the zone and just kept going in a bad direction. It was a tough day," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
Allen Craig went 2-for-4 with a two-run double and Carlos Beltran had an RBI two-bagger for St. Louis, which managed just two hits after the second inning.
Ian Kinsler finished 2-for-4 for Texas and singled off Rosenthal to begin the ninth, and the St. Louis reliever put himself in more trouble by throwing wildly to first after fielding Andrus' sacrifice bunt as Kinsler raced to third on the miscue. A wild pitch then put both runners in scoring position before Cruz hit a dribbler that made its way through a drawn-in infield.
St. Louis had threatened to pull ahead an inning prior after Craig reached on a two-out single and Yadier Molina sent him to third with a double against Cotts. David Freese was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Cotts got Jon Jay to bounce back to the box as the game remained tied.
The game was a slugfest early on, with the Cardinals scoring three times off Holland in the bottom of the first inning and Texas battering Lyons for four runs in its half of the second.
Matt Carpenter and Beltran connected on back-to-back doubles to put St. Louis ahead before Holland recorded an out, and Craig followed a walk to Matt Holliday with a drive into the gap in left center that quickly made it a 3-0 game.
Consecutive doubles from A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland to begin the second got the Rangers on the board. Lyons bounced back with two straight outs, but walked both Holland and Kinsler to extend the inning before Andrus came through with a single to left that knotted the score at 3-3. Kelly came on in relief and was greeted by Cruz's base hit that brought home Kinsler.
The Cardinals answered in the bottom of the inning, however. Pete Kozma led off with a double, moved up a base on Kelly's sacrifice, then crossed the plate when Pierzynski couldn't handle Holland's breaking pitch for a passed ball.
Holland was brilliant thereafter, not allowing a hit over the remainder of his outing and finishing his stint by retiring 12 consecutive hitters capped by striking out the side in the seventh.
Kelly kept the Rangers in check as well before being lifted for Randy Choate with one on and two out in the top of the seventh. Pierzynski reached the reliever for a double that put men on second and third, but Moreland grounded out harmlessly.
Moreland was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, with the Rangers optioning pitcher Josh Lindblom to Triple-A Round Rock. Moreland had been sidelined since June 6 with a strained hamstring ... The Rangers improved to an MLB-best 22-12 in interleague road games since the start of the 2010 season ... Holland tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings to defeat the Cardinals in Arlington during Game 4 of the 2011 World Series ... Craig now has 13 RBI over his last 11 games ... The teams have squared off in only one previous series in interleague play, with St. Louis taking two of three matchups in Texas in 2004.