ST. LOUIS -- Three runs down with none out in the first, Derek Holland and the Texas Rangers were in trouble. The lefty participated in the comeback by keeping the bat on his shoulder, and he found his stride on the mound, too.
Holland coaxed a two-out walk off Tyler Lyons to fuel a four-run second-inning rally that put the Rangers back in business, and the Rangers went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 on Friday night.
"Some of the guys were giving me a hard time with me and my swing," said Holland, who's 0-for-5 at the plate this season but with a pair of walks. "The main thing is to go out there and try to see as many pitches as you possibly can, and try to get his pitch count up.
"Lucky for me, I got the walk," he added.
Nelson Cruz snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single through a drawn-in infield in the opener of a series between 2011 World Series opponents.
Neal Cotts (4-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth when Jon Jay tapped out on a full-count pitch and Joe Nathan finished for his 23rd save in 24 chances. All of Cotts' decisions have come this month.
The opener of the three-game series drew a sellout of 45,228 to Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals closed out the '11 Series with wild wins in Games 6 and 7.
"For me it's just a game on our schedule and you have to play it," Rangers leadoff man Ian Kinsler said. "Obviously, there are memories of the stadium and memories of the field and stuff like that, but this is a different year and we're trying to win a series and continue to play good baseball."
This game had some of the drama that made that series one of the best in recent memory.
Rookie Trevor Rosenthal (1-1) struck out two in a perfect eighth but gave up two hits, botched a sacrifice attempt for an error and threw a wild pitch to the backstop in the ninth.
"It just kind of snowballed on him a little bit," manager Mike Matheny said. "He had trouble getting it in the zone and when he brought it back in he was already in favorable counts for the hitters."
Both managers insisted the matchup between 2011 World Series opponents was just another series, with Matheny noting both rosters have changed a lot and the Rangers' Ron Washington saying he's been over the gut-wrenching feeling left by those two final losses in St. Louis since the start of spring training in 2012.
Holland struck out the side in the seventh and retired the final 12 in order. Holland allowed three doubles and a walk to the first four hitters in the Cardinals' three-run first but gave up few hard-hit balls thereafter.
Andrus was in a 2-for-25 slump before his two-run single in the second chased Lyons, who lasted 1 2/3 innings. A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland opened the innings with doubles for a run and Nelson Cruz greeted Kelly with an RBI single to cap a four-run rally that put the Rangers up 4-3.
After winning his first two career starts for a rotation hit hard by injuries, Lyons is 0-3 with an 8.19 ERA in four outings. Kelly was 5-7 in 16 starts last year after replacing injured Jaime Garcia and made one spot start earlier this month, and could replace Lyons.
A move might happen quicker to help the bullpen.
"If it arises, I mean, I'll take the ball and I'll be ready to give this team the best chance to win," Kelly said.
Matheny said a move might happen quicker to help the bullpen.
The Cardinals jumped on Holland in the first with three doubles and a walk the first four at-bats with Beltran driving in a run and Craig getting two RBIs. Pete Kozma doubled to open the second, advanced on the first of Kelly's two sacrifice bunts, and scored on a passed ball.
The Rangers' top pitching prospect, lefty Martin Perez, will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to make his second career start Saturday. Perez is 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA in the minors. Washington said talk about an extended stay in the rotation was very premature. The Cardinals' Shelby Miller (8-4, 2.08) leads NL rookies in ERA. ... Moreland (hamstring) was activated from the 15-day DL earlier in the day and RHP Josh Lindblom was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock.