Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward hadn’t planned on using Danny Santana, a day after he was hit in the right ankle by a fastball from Carlos Martinez and forced to make an early exit.
But Woodward learned 40 minutes before gametime Sunday that Santana said he was totally fine. Good enough, certainly, to be a pinch-hitter.
Santana delivered, connecting for a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning and then scoring the winning run in the 10th on a sacrifice fly by Nomar Mazara off Martinez that lifted Texas over the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4.
“The kid is pretty special, to take 97 in the ankle off the bone and come in and hit a pinch-hit homer the next day and have a huge walk the next at-bat — says a lot about who he is,” Woodward said.
The Rangers rallied for two runs in the 10th and won for the fourth time in five games. The Cardinals dropped their fifth straight series and haven’t won consecutive games since taking five in a row from April 27-May 1.
Santana said through a translator that he was one of the first players in the clubhouse on Sunday morning, took treatment, had his ankle taped and declared himself available.
Santana said that after running from first base to third in the 10th inning on the game-tying single by pinch-hitter Willie Calhoun, he knew he could run home if need be.
Both teams blew leads in the late innings.
Dexter Fowler’s solo homer in the ninth off Texas reliever Chris Martin made it 3-all.
The Cardinals went ahead in the 10th when Harrison Bader doubled off Jeanmar Gómez (1-0) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Paul DeJong.
Rougned Odor opened the Texas 10th with a single off Jordan Hicks (1-2), Santana walked and Calhoun had a tying single.
Hicks threw 39 pitches, the most of his two-year major league career.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who was ejected in the fourth by plate umpire Jeremie Rehak after Fowler was called out on a 3-2 pitch, said he had no issue with Hicks’ workload.
“We knew he had a count at 40 we were going to hold pretty firm to,” Shildt said.
Martinez, the two-time All-Star who made his season debut Saturday following shoulder trouble, entered and intentionally walked Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases with no outs. After Logan Forsythe struck out, Mazara lofted a flyball that scored Santana.
Paul DeJong drove in three runs for the Cardinals.
St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty gave up two runs on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts in six innings. Choo led off the first with a home run.
Rangers starter Drew Smyly sought his first win since Sept. 13, 2016, having missed the next two major league seasons following Tommy John surgery. He pitched four innings, allowing two runs in the first.
José Leclerc, who has been everything from a closer to an opener for Texas this season, matched a career high for strikeouts in a game with five while pitching the fifth and sixth innings. Leclerc has 23 strikeouts in his last 12 1/3 innings, including all three batters as the opener on Friday.
Woodward said he’ll return Leclerc to the closer’s role later this season but currently sees him as “our version of Andrew Miller back in the Cleveland days.”
Calhoun has hit safely in all five games since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday and is hitting .476 (10 for 21). … Choo’s home run landed in the upper deck in right field and was his third homer in his past four games. The homer was the first run scored off Flaherty in the first or second inning in his 10 starts this season. … Yadier Molina had his third stolen base of the season on the back end of a double steal, tying him for the most by a major league catcher this year.
Cardinals: RHP Michael Wacha (3-1, 4.93 ERA) will make his fifth career start against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday and his first at home. Wacha is 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA against Kansas City.
Rangers: LHP Mike Minor (4-3, 2.61 ERA) will open a home series against the Seattle Mariners on Monday. Minor has five starts of seven or more innings pitched with two or fewer runs this season, already the most by a Ranger during the past two seasons.