ST. LOUIS -- Rangers starter Nick Tepesch didn't get a win on Sunday night and has now gone six weeks since the last one on May 12.
But Texas did win on a night when Tepesch faced Cardinals 10-game winner Adam Wainwright, and that's all that mattered in a game that was delayed at the beginning for almost three hours by rain. The Rangers rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh off Wainwright and held on for a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night at Busch Stadium to complete a sweep.
"Any time we get a win, it definitely feels good," Tepesch said. "I was happy with it."
The Rangers didn't get on their charter flight to New York until the early hours of Monday morning and were looking at a dawn arrival on the East Coast. But they can enjoy their first day off in three weeks with a five-game winning streak as well as being back in sole possession of first place in the American League West.
The Rangers went 9-11 in a stretch of 20 straight games without a day off, their longest of the season. But they won their last five and now have a one-game lead over the Athletics.
"We're right where we need to be," outfielder David Murphy said.
Tepesch, who pitched at the University of Missouri, went 5 2/3 innings, allowing only a home run to Matt Carpenter leading off the sixth. Tepesch gave up four hits, walked two batters and struck out four. But most importantly, he was able to hold his own against Wainwright for most of the night until the Rangers could figure out a way to break through.
"He did a tremendous job, especially going up against Wainwright and matching his zeros," manager Ron Washington said. "He had good focus to do a great job against that type of pitcher."
Tepesch left trailing, 1-0. Robbie Ross, who did the least amount of work in relief, ended up getting the victory by retiring just one batter. Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan all pitched a scoreless inning. The Rangers' bullpen has a 1.52 ERA in their last seven games.
Nathan was pitching for the fourth straight game. It's the first time he has done that this season, but Washington had no concerns about using him.
"He told me before the game he felt good," Washington said. "He said he felt better than all those other days. It came down to giving it to Nathan, and I gave it to Nathan."
Nathan allowed a pair of one-out singles to Matt Adams and Jon Jay to put runners on first and second. But Pete Kozma lined out to third baseman Adrian Beltre and pinch-runner Shane Robinson was doubled off second.
"I went with a slider and got it far enough off the sweet spot that he was able to get it over to [Beltre]," said Nathan, who threw 58 pitches the past four games. "I definitely felt the effects of all of the throwing. I concentrated on location today. I think my stuff was still pretty decent."
Nathan has 25 saves on the season, including nine in a row, and 323 all time.
"That's why he's got  saves," Washington said. "You don't get that many saves without knowing how to get three outs at the end of the game. Sometimes it's pretty, and sometimes it's ugly, but the bottom line is it's three outs."
Wainwright took a four-hit shutout into the seventh, but the Rangers got a rally going with two outs when David Murphy doubled off the right-field wall. Leonys Martin then had the big at-bat of the night. He fell behind 0-2, then worked the count full by laying off the breaking ball before smacking a single up the middle to plate Murphy.
"Obviously it was an important at-bat," Martin said. "He was trying to work me and I was trying to protect the zone."
"I've got to tip my hat to Murphy, 3-2 count, stays back on a curve ball and hits it off the wall," Wainwright said. "That's a pretty good job of hitting right there. Martin battled me for seven pitches in a row. I'll tip my hat to him, too -- they both put good swings on me."
That was it for Wainwright after 105 pitches, and Trevor Rosenthal took over to face pinch-hitter Jurickson Profar. Rosenthal got him to hit a popup that shortstop Kozma, retreating into left field, got to but dropped. That put runners on first and second, and Ian Kinsler lined a single to left to bring home the go-ahead run. Both runs were charged to Wainwright, who is 10-5 with a 2.31 ERA.
"He's Adam Wainwright for a reason," Murphy said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a big-time competitor and he has great stuff. Most of the guys in our lineup have never seen him. He's a bulldog, we just fought hard and got some big hits. Fortunately Tepesch did a great job, so we only had to score a few runs."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.