ST. LOUIS (AP) — Chad Billingsley strode to the mound feeling like a winner.
Even though the Los Angeles Dodgers’ right-hander was stuck on a five-start losing streak for a couple extra weeks while sidelined with elbow inflammation, he said there was no stewing before taming the St. Louis Cardinals for six innings in a 5-3 victory Monday night.
“I don’t even think about that,” Billingsley said. “Your mindset is always getting ready for the next start, the next time you’re out there.”
Billingsley (5-9) didn’t seem to mind the 101-degree heat, changing a soaked jersey once to cope. He struggled with fastball control but was happy with all of his off-speed stuff.
“I like throwing in this,” Billingsley said. “I mean, you stay loose and you get a good sweat going. Good old St. Louis, that humidity.”
Luis Cruz powered the Dodgers’ fifth straight victory with a three-run homer in the second. Cruz, recalled July 2 to replaced injured shortstop Dee Gordon, has two career homers and 12 RBIs. Eight of his 14 hits are for extra bases.
The drive estimated at 372 feet barely cleared the left-field wall — the ball conked left fielder Matt Holliday on the rebound — to give the Dodgers the early jump in their eighth straight win over St. Louis dating to April 17, 2011.
“I don’t really look at him as a power hitter but when he hits it, it stays hit,” manager Don Mattingly said. “This is no little Punch and Judy. He gets it, it’s going to go.”
Rookie Joe Kelly (1-3) said he gave Cruz a fat pitch to hit.
“Terrible slider, especially after fastball up, fastball up,” Kelly said. “He put a good swing on it. It was just a cement mixer.”
Kenley Jansen struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 19th save in 24 chances. The Dodgers also won eight in a row against St. Louis from 1975-76, their best streak in the series since moving to Los Angeles.
Carlos Beltran homered for the second straight game with a two-run shot in the eighth for the Cardinals, hitting his 22nd of the year off Ronald Belisario. But St. Louis was 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, failing to build on a three-game sweep of the Cubs in which it outscored Chicago 23-1.
Mark Ellis added a two-run double in the seventh off Victor Marte, the third reliever the Cardinals used in the inning in an effort to keep it close. Tony Gwynn Jr. contributed a pinch-hit single and scored, making him 8 for 16 with five RBIs in that role.
Kelly allowed two earned runs on four hits in six innings, and had a tougher day from a physical standpoint. He contributed to Ellis’ double-play ball the second at-bat of the game by deflecting a high chopper with the ring finger of his pitching hand, prompting a visit from team trainers and a brief delay to make sure he could still pitch.
“I felt like I got stung by a bee,” Kelly said. “Just numb for a little bit.”
Kelly got a second visit from the trainer after beating out an infield hit in the fifth, then stumbling over the bag and sprawling to the ground. Earlier in the at-bat, Kelly barely missed a homer on a ball that replays indicated was less than a foot outside the foul pole in left.
Billingsley allowed a run and four hits in six innings to win for the first time since June 10 at Seattle and end a skid that matched his career worst. In the five starts he made prior to going on the DL, the right-hander had a 6.21 ERA while allowing 41 hits in 29 innings.
Mattingly said the Dodgers were hoping Billingsley would last six innings.
“I think Chad just got enough big outs and was using enough of his pitches, throwing enough strikes,” the manager said. “We weren’t going to try to get anymore tonight, for sure.”
The Dodgers trailed for the first time in four games during a 10-game trip after Jon Jay doubled for his fifth consecutive hit with one out in the first and scored on Lance Berkman’s two-out single. Jay also singled to start the eighth and scored on Beltran’s homer, which tied him with the Diamondbacks’ Jason Kubel for the NL RBI lead with 71 apiece.
NOTES: Cardinals 3B David Freese, who is 0 for 6 with six strikeouts against Billingsley, was not in the lineup. … The Dodgers have 14 homers in the last 18 games. … Kelly has two hits, both infield singles. He worked Billingsley for a 10-pitch at-bat but grounded out in the second. … Holliday doubled and walked and has an extra-base hit in four straight games. In his last 16 home games he’s batting .491 (28 for 57). … Jay had his first multihit game since May 2.