For a team that hasn’t played well from behind, the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to pull out a victory after trailing and then blowing a two-run lead against a club with the best record in baseball.
Adrian Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs, Mark Ellis lined a go-ahead double in the sixth inning and the Dodgers defeated St. Louis 5-3 on Saturday night to snap the Cardinals’ three-game winning streak.
”Just the fact that we stayed in the game helps,” Gonzalez said. ”It’s not that we’re not fighting. We’re just going down in order and not getting guys on base.”
The last-place Dodgers, who had lost five of seven, gave up a two-run lead before Ellis’ two-out hit off Seth Maness (3-1) scored Carl Crawford from first base to make it 4-3.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pulled out all the stops in trying to orchestrate a victory. He made double switches in the sixth and seventh, and then inserted pinch-hitter Juan Uribe in the eighth, resulting in an RBI double.
Paco Rodriguez (1-2) earned his first major league victory with a scoreless inning of relief on 10 pitches. He came in with the bases loaded in the sixth and escaped the jam while preserving a 3-3 tie. Brandon League tossed a scoreless ninth to earn his 10th save in 12 chances.
The NL Central-leading Cardinals tied the game at 3 on David Freese’s broken-bat RBI double and Pete Kozma’s infield single in the sixth. Nick Punto made a diving stop behind third base, but he couldn’t throw out Kozma.
”I thought I did (have a double down the line), but he made an outstanding play,” Kozma said. ”If it gets through, two and maybe three runs score.”
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead on Gonzalez’s RBI double off Joe Kelly in the third. Gonzalez led off the fifth with his fifth homer, extending the lead to 3-1. He tied the score at 1 in the first with an RBI double.
Ellis (.309), Gonzalez (.316) and Punto (.340), who went 3 for 4, powered the Dodgers’ offense from the top of the order while sluggers Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier combined to go hitless in seven at-bats. Kemp struck out twice, including once with runners on first and second to end the sixth. The duo was a combined 0 for 6 on Friday.
Fans booed both Kemp and Ethier.
”It may be a little part of the fans’ frustration when you have high expectations,” Mattingly said. ”You change that by playing better and winning games.”
Mattingly made his second double switch in the seventh, with Kenley Jansen taking the mound and Skip Schumaker replacing Kemp in center field. A clearly frustrated Kemp returned to the dugout shouting, but Mattingly said he didn’t take him out because he’s struggling.
”It’s tough because you don’t want to take to switch one of your guys out but it was the only move I felt I had,” he said.
The win helped Kemp cool down.
”It had been a bad day for me. I didn’t do much to help the team,” he said. ”That’s how they feel. Let them do what they want to do.”
Gonzalez didn’t like the negative reaction to Kemp.
”Kemp is never a guy who should be booed,” he said. ”He’s trying his heart out. He cares more than anybody out here. He wants to do more. He’ll get out of it.”
Los Angeles starter Ted Lilly allowed two runs and two hits in 5 1/3 innings in his first major league game since a 12-2 loss to Colorado on April 29. The left-hander struck out three and walked one in his third start of the year. He retired 14 in a row during one stretch.
Lilly began the season late on April 24 after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, then went on the disabled list from April 30 to May 20 with a strained right rib cage.
”I was hoping to go a little deeper. Fortunately, we won the game,” he said. ”My timing was a little in and out. My command wasn’t as good as I would like it. I still have a little ways to go as far as sharpness. That being said, it’s the best I’ve thrown the ball in a while.”
Cardinals starter John Gast left in the bottom of the second because of left shoulder tightness. He faced six batters, giving up one run and one hit. The rookie left-hander threw 25 pitches, walking two and striking out none.
”I wasn’t getting real loose in the bullpen and then it got worse once I got out there,” he said. ”It was kind of tight and weak, and it was affecting my command and velocity the whole time. Last year I sat out a start because of something in the front of my shoulder, and today it was in the back of it.”
St. Louis already has three starters on the disabled list: Chris Carpenter (who hasn’t pitched this season), Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook. Gast was starting in place of Westbrook.
Kelly tied his career high with six strikeouts and equaled his longest relief appearance of the season, allowing two runs in three innings. … Dodgers SS Dee Gordon snapped an 0-for-25 slump when he singled in the fourth, his first hit since May 13 against Washington. … The Dodgers improved to 1,009-1,007-16 in the teams’ all-time series. … The Cardinals are undefeated in their last seven series (6-0-1) going into Sunday’s finale.