Adrian Sampson might not always have one-time Texas closer José Leclerc starting in front of him.
Worked pretty well this time, though.
Sampson got his first career win following Leclerc as the opener in his first major league start, Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo homered in a seven-run second inning and the Rangers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-3 on Friday night.
"I'm not saying we are going to do it every time," manager Chris Woodward said. "But this team is so top heavy, their best hitters are at the top."
Leclerc struck out two in a perfect first inning. The right-hander was removed as the closer May 1 after two blown saves and twice being replaced in the ninth inning of games Texas went on to win.
Sampson (1-3) gave up seven hits and two runs — one earned — in 5 1/3 innings for the 27-year-old right-hander's first win in his 16th career appearance over three seasons, beginning with Seattle in 2016.
"It took me long enough, you know?'" Sampson said. "I've just been through a lot, between getting called up and where I'm at now. Any time you pitch and it's been awhile, you start to think about it every inning. It was in my thoughts all the time. It's good to just get it out of the way."
Joey Gallo had both his hits in the highest-scoring inning this season for Texas, which beat the Cardinals in their first game in Arlington since losing Game 5 of the 2011 World Series.
Gallo also had a throw from center field clocked at 95.8 mph , according to MLB's Statcast, when he got Kolten Wong trying to go from first to third on Harrison Bader's single in the seventh inning.
Texas has won all seven regular season games against St. Louis since the dramatic World Series loss that included the Rangers being a strike away from the title twice in Game 6. The Cardinals rallied for an 11-inning victory and won going away in Game 7, both wins at home.
Miles Mikolas (4-4), facing his former team for the first time, gave up nine hits and seven runs in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest outing in 52 starts for the right-hander's career. The Cardinals dropped to 4-12 since May 1, when they had the best record in the majors.
"To throw up a stinker like this is frustrating but I'm not going to let this discourage me from all the good things that I had been doing," said Mikolas, who was coming off three straight strong starts before letting his ERA in his old home ballpark rise to 16.71.
Odor and Choo each hit a sixth home run this season — Odor a three-run shot for a 4-0 lead and Choo a two-run homer for a 6-0 edge . Odor has three homers in two games.
Texas' big inning ended when Hunter Pence tried to score on a pitch that bounced and hit Yadier Molina in the mask. The catcher scrambled for the loose ball and dived back to the plate as Pence ran past without touching home. Molina made the tag before Pence got a hand on the plate.
After 13 Rangers batted in the second inning, four St. Louis relievers retired 18 of the final 20 Texas hitters with 10 strikeouts.
The first two runs for the Cardinals came home without a hit in the third. Bader scored when Odor mishandled Paul Goldschmidt's grounder, and Marcell Ozuna had an RBI fielder's choice. Bader hit a solo homer, his fourth of the season, with two outs in the ninth.
JUST ONE THROWBACK
Molina figures to be the only player to see action among those were part of the World Series eight years ago. Right-handers Lance Lynn of Texas, a rookie with the Cardinals back then, and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis won't start in the three-game series. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus is on the injured list with a strained right hamstring.
Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey threw out the ceremonial first pitch a little less than six weeks after winning her third national championship with the Lady Bears. Mulkey, celebrating her 57th birthday, wore a white No. 19 Texas uniform top with "Mulkey" on the back.
Crouching behind home plate, third base coach Tony Beasley didn't even have to move his glove on the throw from the former point guard who won national titles as a player and assistant coach at Louisiana Tech. Baylor beat Notre Dame 82-81 for the title.
Cardinals: RHP Dakota Hudson (2-3, 4.61 ERA) is set for his first start against an AL West team. Both of his previous appearances against American League clubs were in relief, against Kansas City and Detroit as a rookie last year.
Rangers: RHP Ariel Jurado (1-1, 1.50) is set for his first start of the season and ninth of his career. The first eight were last season.
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