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Cruz gets big hit again, Rangers beat Cardinals

Published On: Jun 23 2013 02:07:13 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS -

Texas manager Ron Washington mentioned Martin Perez's mound presence.

Perez was eager to talk about his pitches, specifically his changeup and fastball.

No matter which angle one prefers, there's no doubt that Perez delivered an outing Saturday night that proves he might be ready to justify the reams of hype he has received for being one of baseball's top pitching prospects.

Carving up St. Louis' lineup over seven solid innings, the 22-year-old left-hander lifted the Rangers to a 4-2 win at sold-out Busch Stadium.

Perez (1-1) gave up runs in each of the first two innings and then went into shutdown mode. He allowed only two singles and a walk in the last five frames, retiring the last 10 men he faced.

The hard-throwing Perez had just three strikeouts, but two were against National League batting leader Yadier Molina. Both were on changeups that wound up in the dirt.

"Tonight was a big step forward for Martin," Washington said. "He was good. No, he was better than good. He was great. For the first time, I felt he really had that mound presence. He was pitching out there, not just throwing."

Perez needed just 82 pitches to work over the Cardinals, getting his last 10 outs on only 32 pitches. Mixing a fastball clocked as high as 97 mph with a changeup that was about 10 to 12 mph slower, he kept a good lineup off-balance most of the night.

"I know I'm not going to be perfect out there, but I'm going to do my best," Perez said. "My changeup, my fastball, they were both good pitches. I kept attacking the hitters and throwing strikes."

Perez made it to the majors last year, going 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA over 12 appearances (six starts) and 38 innings. He has spent this year at Triple-A Round Rock, save for a Memorial Day start and loss at Arizona.

Given another chance to take the ball because of Washington's desire to give his starters an extra day of rest, Perez gave Texas its fourth straight win and fifth in six games after a six-game losing streak.

"We never looked at it as the end of the world," Washington said of the losing streak. "We've got guys in there that know what it takes to win games. We won three of four from Oakland and we've carried that over into this series."

Tanner Scheppers induced Matt Holliday's second 5-4-3 double play of the game to get out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth. Joe Nathan worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 24th save as Texas (43-32) became just the fourth team to win a series from the Cardinals (47-28) in 2013.

After a 66-minute rain delay, St. Louis got on the board in the bottom of the first against Perez when Allen Craig's two-out single to center scored Carlos Beltran. But Shelby Miller (8-5) gave up the lead in five second-inning pitches.

That's how long it took for Adrian Beltre to rocket a double off the left-center wall, then trot home on A.J. Pierzynski's first-pitch homer over the right-field wall. It was the seventh homer for Pierzynski.

After the Cardinals tied it in their half of the second on Shane Robinson's sacrifice fly that scored David Freese, who tripled to lead off the frame, Texas untied it in the third.

Nelson Cruz lined a two-run homer into the right-field seats that scored Elvis Andrus. It was the 19th homer this year for Cruz, whose two-run single in the ninth inning Friday night produced a 6-4 victory for the Rangers.

Miller yielded eight hits and four runs over 5 2/3 innings, walking one and fanning five. But Miller, who has a good chance to win NL Rookie of the Year honors, was outpitched by Perez.

"It was an amazing win," Perez said. "I knew I needed to win this game. After the guys scored those runs for me, I knew this was my game."

NOTES: As expected, St. Louis optioned LHP Tyler Lyons to Memphis and recalled RHP Michael Blazek from the Triple-A affiliate. Lyons was 2-3 with a 5.51 ERA in six starts for the Cardinals, getting knocked out of Friday night's 6-4 loss in the second inning. Blazek made a four-day appearance on the St. Louis roster from May 26-29 but didn't pitch ... Texas sent LHP Joseph Ortiz to Round Rock so it could start Perez. Ortiz went 2-1 with a 5.08 ERA in 22 appearances out of the bullpen ... Friday night's defeat was just the Cardinals' sixth in 46 games in which they have scored four or more runs.

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