OAK@TEX: Kinsler's two-run single gives Rangers lead

ST. LOUIS -- The Rangers went into Saturday's game having won four of their last five games. During those five games, Ian Kinsler was 8-for-18 with three walks and six runs scored.

That came after Kinsler was 0-for-8 with a walk in two losses after being activated off the disabled list. Kinsler missed almost a month with a stress reaction in his right rib cage, and manager Ron Washington said it's no coincidence that the offense has picked up with his return.

"He's the straw that stirs the drink," Washington said. "He may not be your prototypical leadoff hitter, but he fights for his bats, he scores runs, takes walks, steals bags, can hit the ball out of the ballpark and drive in runs. He gets everybody going. He makes Elvis [Andrus] feel better. He makes everybody feel better.

"I like him in the No. 1 hole. He's not prototypical, but he scores runs. Even when he was hitting .250 or .260, he scores runs. He crosses the dish. That's what leadoff hitters do."

Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Kinsler, who went 1-for-5 in Saturday's 4-2 victory, has scored 250 runs in the leadoff spot, the most in the Major Leagues.

Cruz in the third spot, but not permanently

TEX@STL: Cruz's two-run single opens up a late lead

ST. LOUIS -- Nelson Cruz was back in the No. 3 spot in the lineup on Saturday night, but Rangers manager Ron Washington is not ready to declare it his permanent spot. Washington suggested there is a possibility Lance Berkman could end up back in the No. 3 spot when he's healthy, hot and back in the lineup.

Cruz is hitting there now because the Rangers are playing in a National League city and there is no designated hitter being used. Berkman is available as a pinch-hitter, but he won't be in the lineup after receiving a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired right knee on Thursday. Berkman will be back in the lineup on Tuesday when the Rangers open a three-game series against the Yankees in New York. He may not return to the No. 3 spot immediately, but Washington still likes him there because he draws walks and is a switch-hitter.

Cruz has had some success in the No. 3 spot, going 7-for-18 with seven RBIs in the past five games. He usually hits fifth or sixth in the lineup.

"It just depends on what's best," Washington said. "Nelson's doing a good job and I know he can handle it. It just depends on what's best."

Cruz was 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the Rangers' 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night. His two-run single broke a 4-4 tie in the ninth inning and allowed the Rangers to win in their first appearance at Busch Stadium since the 2011 World Series.

"It was a little bit special, but it's just a game," Cruz said, before hitting a go-ahead two-run homer in Saturday's 4-2 victory. "Getting an RBI in any ballpark is special because we want to win. We're on a pretty good run right now and playing well."

As far as batting third, Cruz is not trying to make a big deal out of it.

"I guess it means better situations and getting more runners on base in front of me," Cruz said. "That's the only difference I see. I think you focus differently when you've got men on base."

Relievers enjoy homecoming in St. Louis

TEX@STL: Cotts escapes bases-loaded jam in the eighth

ST. LOUIS -- The majority of the Rangers relievers have something to talk about while they are in St. Louis. Five of the seven are from towns that are within a day's drive of Busch Stadium.

Kyle McClellan is from the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, while Neal Cotts is from the small town of Lebanon on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. Ross Wolf grew up on a farm in central Illinois, a few hours to the east, and Jason Frasor, who was born in Chicago, pitched at Southern Illinois in Carbondale, which is about 100 miles southeast. Robbie Ross is from Northern Kentucky.

"It's interesting because this is a big football area, or basketball," Wolf said. "It's too cold to play baseball. It's still cold in March and then you have to deal with spring rains. Like Iowa, their state baseball playoffs are in July. Baseball is a hard sport to play unless you have an indoor facility."

The town of Lebanon only has 3,000 people, and Cotts wasn't really discovered until he pitched at Illinois State University.

"There's some antique stores, two or three bars and four or five churches, and some farmland," Cotts said. "That's about it."

But his family had the opportunity to see him pitch on Friday night. Cotts pitched a scoreless eighth inning and earned his fourth victory when the Rangers ended up with a 6-4 win.

"It's exciting to get to throw in front of your family and friends and they have to root against the team they love at least for a few batters," Cotts said.

Worth noting

• The Rangers optioned pitcher Joseph Ortiz back to Triple-A Round Rock before Saturday's game to make room for Martin Perez. He made two appearances since being recalled on Tuesday.

• Cotts has four relief wins in June. The club record for wins by a reliever in any month is five by Danny Darwin in June, 1980. He has four of the Rangers' last eight wins.

• Alexi Ogando, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, is hoping to throw off a mound on Sunday. It would be his first time off the mound since going on the disabled list on June 5.

• Jeff Baker, on the disabled list with inflammation with a strained ligament in his right thumb, is still waiting for the swelling to go down before he gets started with baseball activities again.