Scott Van Slyke has been hearing the same tired story since his childhood days.
It’s the one about the time his father was in the on-deck circle at Dodger Stadium when Jack Clark hit a go-ahead three-run homer in Game 6 of the 1985 NL championship series to help the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Dodgers and clinch the NL pennant.
Then-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had wanted Tom Niedenfuer to face Clark with first base open because he felt Andy Van Slyke had a better chance to do some damage against the Dodgers’ tired closer.
Sunday night brought back a flood of memories for the elder Van Slyke, who was in the stands and witnessed his son’s first big league homer – another three-run shot that put the Dodgers ahead in the seventh inning of a 6-5 victory over his hometown team.
”Tommy Lasorda reminds me of that every time he sees me,” Scott Van Slyke said with a laugh. ”I also had a couple of friends in the stands from St. Louis, and we’re all from St. Louis. So I’m sure a little piece of them was cringing. But whatever team it was against, I think it would have been just as thrilling. It was important that the home run counted for something and helped the team win.”
Kyle Lohse allowed three runs and 11 hits over 5 2-3 innings with four strikeouts and left with a 5-3 lead. But rookie Elian Herrera started the Dodgers’ winning rally with a one-out single against Victor Marte, and Bobby Abreu greeted Mark Rzepczynski (0-2) with a single.
Van Slyke got the green light from manager Don Mattingly on a 3-0 pitch and drove it into the left-field bullpen after Andre Ethier struck out.
”At first, I looked down at (third base coach) Tim Wallach, and maybe there was a little part of me that was surprised,” the 25-year-old outfielder said. ”But once I got back in the box, I was really zoned in, trying to get a pitch I could do something with.”
The home run was the third allowed in 15 1-3 innings this season by Rzepczynski, the only left-hander manager Mike Matheny has in the bullpen for situations like that.
”My plan was to go with sinkers away early and see if he could hit a groundball,” Rzepczynski said. ”Then I threw a 3-0 changeup, thinking he’d be a little bit out in front of it, I just left it up a little bit up, and it was right in his wheelhouse. He sat back on it and hit it well. He’s got the power. I know it was his first career home run, but he was definitely up here for a reason – to get a chance to hit in that situation.”
Javy Guerra (2-3) got the win, which completed a three-game sweep for the Dodgers and improved the best record in the majors to 28-13. Los Angeles is 15 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season and leads San Francisco by seven games in the NL West, the Dodgers’ biggest margin of the season.
Kenley Jansen retired the side in order in the ninth for his fifth save.
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley gave up five runs – three earned – and eight hits in six innings and struck out seven – including World Series MVP David Freese all three times he faced him. The right-hander is 0-3 over his last seven starts with a 5.20 ERA.
The Cardinals placed first baseman Lance Berkman on the 15-day disabled list before the game because of an injured right knee, and purchased the contract of Triple-A first baseman Matt Adams. The rookie smoked the first pitch he saw in the big leagues to center for a single in the second inning for the first of his two hits and started an inning-ending double play in the first after fielding Adam Kennedy’s grounder in the hole.
The Cardinals turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Daniel Descalso led off with a single and Rafael Furcal reached on an error by Billingsley, who went to cover first base on Furcal’s grounder in the hole and took the throw from James Loney with his foot off the bag on a bang-bang play.
Skip Schumaker followed with a two-run triple, then scored the go-ahead run when Carlos Beltran beat the relay to first from shortstop Justin Sellers on a potential inning-ending double-play grounder to short after a walk to Matt Holliday. Furcal added a two-run bloop single that made it 5-2 in the sixth.
Notes: Dodgers team doctor Neal ElAttrache told Mattingly that 2B Mark Ellis, who underwent emergency surgery Saturday to drain blood and fluid and relieve pressure in his injured left leg, could have lost his leg had he been brought to the hospital six or seven hours later than he was. Mattingly, who visited Ellis along with bench coach Trey Hillman after Saturday night’s game, lauded the team’s training and medical staff for their efforts. Ellis was injured Friday night when Tyler Greene upended him with a hard takeout slide as he attempted to turn a double play. … Van Slyke was born in July 1986 during his father’s fourth and final season with the Cardinals. Andy hit 164 home runs in 1,658 big league games. … Ethier didn’t get his 37th RBI last season until his 270th at-bat, 121 more than it took him this year to reach that total. … Freese struck out all four times up and is 3 for 29 over his last nine games – lowering his average from .309 to .259. … Loney’s RBI single in the sixth was the 2,000th regular-season hit Lohse allowed in his 12-year career.