Alec Burleson’s bomb lifts the Cardinals to victory over the Texas Rangers, snaps losing streak

Tribune Content Agency

ARLINGTON, Texas — Cardinals rookie outfielder Alec Burleson’s success against American League teams had already been noticeable, but he picked a crucial point to come through with a big swing in an AL ballpark on Wednesday night. That swing kept the Cardinals from having their first winless road trip of the season.

Burleson smashed a solo home run into the right field stands against Texas Rangers right-hander Jon Gray, who’d been in the midst of a dominating performance, and that run proved the difference as the Cardinals scratched out a 1-0 win in the finale of the three-game series at Globe Life Field on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals snapped a five-game losing streak and a six-game losing skid on the road.

The game also wrapped up a bitter six-game road trip for the Cardinals that included five losses, including each of the first five games by a margin of two runs or fewer.

Burleson’s homer was his fifth of the season and his second go-ahead homer. He also hit a go-ahead blast against the San Francisco Giants on April 27. Three of his five home runs have come in the seventh inning or later.

Burleson entered the night batting .292 against AL opponents, and he’d collected four multi-hit games in interleague play.

Gray (6-2) tossed a complete-game four-hitter and struck out a season-high 12 in the loss. He tossed 100 pitches.

Nolan Arenado went 2-for-3 with a double. He had half of the team’s hits in the game.

The Cardinals (26-37) got one scoreless inning apiece from relievers Jordan Hicks, Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley (seventh save) after starter Jack Flaherty tossed six scoreless.

Hicks recorded his first win since Aug. 4, 2022.

Flaherty finds a way

Flaherty didn’t waste time working up a sweat. He threw 29 first-inning pitches as he found a way to leave the bases loaded and escape early trouble.

After he struck out the first batter and possibly the hottest current hitter in the majors in Marcus Semien, Flaherty walked three consecutive batters and loaded the bases with one out in the opening frame.

Flaherty got Jonah Heim to swing over the top of a curveball for strike three to record the second out of the inning. Then Travis Jankowski smacked a 1-1 slider on the ground to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who tossed to Flaherty covering first for the final out of the inning.

Flaherty continued to keep the Rangers at bay despite working around traffic on the base paths. He left runners on base in five of his six innings, and multiple men on in both his first and last frames.

He struck out eight batters, allowed three hits and stranded eight men on base in six scoreless innings.

Flaherty stranded the potential go-ahead run on third base in the sixth to keep the score 0-0. Flaherty walked Travis Jankowski with two outs in the sixth, and then a bloop single down the left field line allowed Jankowski to go first-to-third and put him a heartbeat away from scoring.

Just when it looked like the fifth walk of the day might come back to haunt Flaherty, he struck out Josh Smith, swinging, on a 2-2 fastball as he and catcher Willson Contreras both gave celebratory fist pumps as Flaherty finished his outing with a flourish.

No Gray area

Rangers starting pitcher Jon Gray entered the day having allowed just three earned runs in his previous five starts, a span of 34 innings. He also carried a streak of five consecutive starts with a win, the longest such streak of his career.

He’d pitched seven shutout innings in his most recent start against the Seattle Mariners.

Gray, who’d allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his 11 previous starts this season, held the Cardinals to one hit through the first four innings. With the help of a second-inning double play, he faced the minimum number of batters through four innings despite having allowed one hit.

He gave up a double to Nolan Arenado to start the fifth inning, the only extra-base hit against Gray in the first seven innings. Arenado got thrown out at third base to end the inning when he tagged up on a fly ball to left-center field and tried to advance to third.

He’d initially been called safe, but replay review overturned the call despite at least one camera angle appearing to show Arenado’s hand getting to the bag before the tag.

With one out in the sixth, Gray hit Jordan Walker with a pitch. However, Walker left early from first base and was got caught stealing easily when Gray stepped off the mound and threw to second.

Gray pitched his first complete game of the season and his first since 2016.