ST. LOUIS -- The way David Murphy figures it, the Texas Rangers made quite a statement this weekend.
"We're right where we need to be," he said early Monday morning after the Rangers polished off a three-game sweep of St. Louis with a 2-1 decision at Busch Stadium. "We played great baseball this series. Hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling as long as we can."
In becoming the first team this season to sweep the Cardinals, Texas stretched its winning streak to five games and established a one-game lead over the Oakland A's in the American League West.
The Rangers (44-32) followed a simple formula in all three wins: answer every St. Louis rally with one of their own, play airtight defense and use the bullpen to lock things down.
After Matt Carpenter's leadoff homer in the bottom of the sixth broke a scoreless tie, Texas responded in the seventh against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright with both its runs, getting a huge break when an error extended the inning.
Following 5 2/3 solid innings from Rangers rookie starter Nick Tepesch, four relievers got the last 10 outs. Robbie Ross (4-1) retired David Freese to end the sixth and picked up the win, while Joe Nathan survived a ninth-inning scare for his 25th save and his fourth in as many games.
St. Louis put men on first and second with one out in the ninth on singles by pinch hitter Matt Adams and Jon Jay. However, Pete Kozma lined out to leaping third baseman Adrian Beltre, who then caught pinch runner Shane Robinson too far off second, flipping to second baseman Ian Kinsler for the final out.
"Every game was close," Kozma said of the series. "Every game came down to the last out. It's just part of the game."
Kozma also played a role in the Rangers' eventual winning run with a rare error. After Leonys Martin singled Murphy home with the tying run, knocking out Wainwright (10-5), Trevor Rosenthal came on to face pinch hitter Jurickson Profar.
Profar hit a soft liner at Kozma, who began the night with just three errors in 72 games. Kozma jumped for the ball, and it clanked off the heel of his glove, giving Texas runners at first and second.
Kinsler cashed in on the gaffe by lining an 0-1 pitch into left field, plating Martin for the tiebreaking run.
"You have to take advantage of those chances," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I don't know if Kozma lost the ball in the lights or what happened, but he's only human. I don't think we did anything special, but we continue to play good baseball."
St. Louis (47-29) saw its National League Central lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates slip to one game.
Wainwright allowed two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings. Tepesch gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings.
The evening's most powerful display occurred well before the rain-delayed 10:04 p.m. CDT first pitch. A severe thunderstorm with high winds rolled through Busch Stadium just over an hour before the scheduled 7:05 start.
The storm dumped sheets of rain on a field that already absorbed more than its share of it this week. The delay of 2 hours, 59 minutes before Wainwright popped up Kinsler on the game's first pitch was the third stoppage at Busch Stadium this week, totaling 6 hours, 4 minutes.
Once the teams got started, it was as if they were using wet newspapers at the plate. Wainwright allowed just three hits over five innings and fanned five, including the side in the fourth.
However, Tepesch matched the St. Louis ace pitch-for-pitch, not yielding a hit until Freese's one-out single in the fifth. Jay followed with an infield single, but Tepesch retired Kozma and Wainwright to escape trouble.
"Wainwright's one of the best pitchers around, but Tepesch was a bulldog tonight," Murphy said.
NOTES: Texas recalled OF Engel Beltre from Triple-A Round Rock and placed OF Craig Gentry on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch Tuesday against Oakland. Gentry was hitting .216 with one homer and nine RBIs in 51 games with the Rangers, while Beltre was batting .300 with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 72 games for the Express ... St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said RHP Joe Kelly would assume the fifth starter role vacated by LHP Tyler Lyons, demoted to Triple-A Memphis on Saturday. The Cardinals might not need a fifth starter until July 6 because they have three off days on their eight-game, 11-day road trip through the AL West ... St. Louis LF Matt Holliday's eighth-inning, double-play bouncer Saturday was his big-league-leading 20th GIDP, more than twice as many as anyone else has.