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.