LOS ANGELES — Once again, Yadier Molina managed to be a problem for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Matt Carpenter homered for the fifth time in eight games, Molina had a tiebreaking two-run double in the top of the seventh inning and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Dodgers 5-2 on Sunday night to avoid being swept in the three-game series.
Molina pinch hit for starting pitcher Mike Leake and put the Cardinals up 3-1 when he lined reliever Joe Blanton’s pitch into the left-field corner with two outs. Stephen Piscotty followed with an RBI single off Blanton two batters later to bring Molina home.
Molina, who was scheduled for a day off, entered the game a career .301 hitter against the Dodgers and has a .300 average against them in three postseason series.
"You always have to be ready," Molina said. "Anything can happen in the National League, so you always try to be ready."
His clutch hit made a winner of Leake (2-3), who gave up four hits and one run in six innings to win his second straight start. It also helped the Cardinals finish their six-game trip 4-2.
"Mike pitched a tremendous game and I’m just happy to come and be a part of that game," Molina said. "I’m just so happy we got the win because we really needed it."
Trevor Rosenthal pitched the ninth for his seventh save.
Corey Seager homered twice for the Dodgers, the first multihomer game of his career.
J.P. Howell (1-1) took the loss after allowing a one-out single to Jeremy Hazelbaker, who scored on Molina’s double.
Carpenter and Seager traded solo homers in the third inning, and it stayed tied until the seventh.
With two out and Hazelbaker on first in the seventh, Blanton intentionally walked Brandon Moss with Molina on deck. Molina made the Dodgers pay for that decision, turning on a 1-0 slider to bring Hazelbaker and Moss home.
"I just felt I’d rather take Joe against any right-hander because he’s been dominant against them all year," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Obviously, Yadi is a great hitter, a clutch hitter, but the way Joe throws the ball against right-handed hitters, that was the decision I chose to make."
After Carpenter was intentionally walked, Piscotty added to the lead with an RBI single to left to make it 4-1 and extend his hitting streak to eight games.
The Cardinals added another run off Blanton in the eighth when Randal Grichuk led off with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and trotted home on Aledmys Diaz’s sacrifice fly.
Blanton left before reporters could speak with him.
"He’s faced numerous great right-handed hitters," Roberts said. "Since he’s gone to this role in the ‘pen, he’s dominated. I’d take him 10 times over in that situation."
Alex Wood surrendered only three hits and one run in six innings but took a no-decision and remains winless in his last six starts for the Dodgers.
Cardinals: SS Jhonny Peralta (torn thumb ligament) continued swinging a bat and is expected to participate in his first full batting practice this week.
Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder surgery) pitched two scoreless innings in a rehab start for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. He allowed one hit and struck out two in his first appearance since Sept. 12, 2014.
Dodgers reliever Louis Coleman left after Diaz lined a comebacker off his right hip in the top of the seventh.
The ball deflected to third baseman Justin Turner, who threw to first in time to get the out.
Roberts said Coleman did not sustain a major injury and is "fine."
The Cardinals took a 40-minute infield instead of batting practice before the game.
The change in routine came after the Cardinals committed five errors in their first two games against the Dodgers, both losses.
Entering Sunday, the Cardinals ranked last in MLB in errors (34) and fielding percentage (.976).
Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (3-2, 2.58) opens a three-game home series against Colorado on Tuesday. He’s thrown seven innings without allowing an earned run each of his last two starts.