Josh Beckett and Adam Wainwright were both on their game in a pitching duel that exceeded all expectations.
Pinch-hitter Justin Turner delivered an RBI single in the eighth inning off Wainwright, and the Los Angeles Dodgers edged the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 Thursday night in their first meeting since last year’s NL Championship Series.
Beckett pitched seven sharp innings in his showdown with the Cardinals’ ace, who held the Dodgers hitless through five. Left fielder Matt Kemp helped Beckett by throwing out a runner at the plate in the seventh.
Beckett scattered four hits, walked two and struck out four. The right-hander has a 1.34 ERA over his last seven starts, a stretch that began with his no-hitter in Philadelphia on May 25. His season ERA is 2.11 in 15 starts.
”I knew it was going to be tough, but I don’t think I deserve very much of the credit,” Beckett said. ”My defense really picked me up tonight, and we got a late run off of a pretty tough pitcher.”
Juan Uribe, just off the disabled list after missing 34 games with a right hamstring strain, led off the eighth with a single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Butera before rookie Miguel Rojas’ infield single put runners at the corners.
Turner, batting for reliever Brian Wilson, came through with his 20th RBI of the season.
”I think he’s used to that. He’s gotten some big hits for us this year,” Kemp said. ”He’s always ready to hit, and tonight he got the big hit. It was a battle today. It was a battle of the pitchers – two good pitchers going at it, and we had to wait out Wainwright.”
Wilson (1-2) tossed a perfect inning and Kenley Jansen got three outs for his 24th save.
”That’s how playoff games usually are — 1-0. When we play them, it’s always two good teams going at it,” Kemp said. ”I think our pitchers match up with their pitchers, and vice versa. We’ve had some battles over the years, and they’ve gotten the best of us the last couple of years. But hopefully we can grind it out and see them in the playoffs again this year.”
The Cardinals won 97 games last season, five more than Los Angeles, and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS. Wainwright won Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.
This time, Wainwright (10-4) took a hard-luck loss, giving up five hits while going the distance for the 19th time in 201 regular-season starts. The right-hander was runner-up to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in last year’s NL Cy Young Award voting.
”I think one run would have been enough tonight the way he was throwing the ball,” said Cardinals second baseman Mark Ellis, a former Dodger. ”He was typical Wainwright. He has four above-average pitches and throws them wherever he wants. He knows their lineup and how to throw those guys.”
Wainwright walked his first batter, Dee Gordon, then retired 15 in a row before Rojas led off the sixth with a clean single to left field. Beckett followed with a Texas Leaguer to right, and Allen Craig made a diving catch with the outfield playing shallow against the pitcher.
Gordon followed with a bloop single to left, but Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play. Puig, the NL player of the month for May, is batting .242 with no homers, six RBI and 25 strikeouts in 25 games since his last home run on May 28 against Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey at Dodger Stadium.
Craig hit a two-out double in the seventh, just beyond Puig’s reach on the right-field warning track, then tried to score on Jon Jay’s sharp single to left. Kemp charged the ball and threw a perfect strike to Butera in front of the plate for a sweep tag as Beckett thrust both arms over his head in jubilation.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny challenged the call by umpire Vic Carapazza, but a replay review upheld the decision and the game remained scoreless.
”I wasn’t surprised they sent him. Right there in the late innings, it’s do or die,” Kemp said. ”I got a good jump on it, got to the ball quick and threw it. Butera made a good tag and we got the out. Defense is just as important as offense. Defense won us that game today.”
Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly, on the DL with a left hamstring strain that’s sidelined him for 66 games, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Memphis. … Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez missed his third straight game with a sore right shoulder and had an MRI. … The Dodgers’ flight from Kansas City didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until about 2 a.m. following their 5-4 win over the Royals, and manager Don Mattingly called off batting practice. … The Cardinals began a five-game stretch in which they will face all three pitchers who have thrown no-hitters this season, including Kershaw on Sunday and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum on Tuesday. … The Dodgers were 20-14 in Uribe’s absence. … Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI streak ended at seven games, one shy of the LA Dodgers record shared by Puig, Tommy Davis, Reggie Smith, Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green.