The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in town, late last August, they swept the Cardinals in a three-game series that dropped the Cardinals 10 games out of the division lead and 10 12 games out of the wild-card race. The Cardinals then rallied to win the wild card, the pennant and the World Series.
The situation isn't as dire this time, but the Dodgers beat the Cardinals for the eighth straight time over two seasons Monday night, making an early lead stand up for a 5-3 triumph at Busch Stadium.
After a weekend spent beating up on the Chicago Cubs, 23-1, over three games, the Cardinals reverted to their difficulties delivering runners from scoring position, which marked their 1-5 road trip to Cincinnati and Milwaukee right after the All-Star break.
In those six games, the Cardinals were 8 for 51 with runners in scoring position. On Monday, they were just 1 for 8, with first baseman Lance Berkman's run-scoring single in the first inning the only at-bat on the plus side. Berkman's hit was just his third in 19 career at-bats against Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley and his first RBI against Billingsley.
Right-handed rookie Joe Kelly continued the Cardinals' remarkable run of 18 straight starts of six innings or more and 17 straight games in which the starter allowed two earned runs or fewer through the first six innings.
Kelly (1-3) worked exactly six innings for the sixth straight time, beat out an infield single for his second big-league hit and narrowly missed a home run with a long foul to left. He also stayed in the game after getting his bare hand in front of a bouncer by Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis in the first inning. "Just numb for a little bit," said Kelly.
Kelly has filled in nicely for injured left-hander Jaime Garcia but has little to show for it in the win column. But Kelly blamed himself for this loss, notably his allowance of a three-run homer to Dodgers rookie shortstop Luis Cruz.
"Terrible slider," said Kelly. "He put a good swing on it. It was just a cement mixer (a slider that doesn't break much)."
-- RF Carlos Beltran, after not homering for nearly a month, hit his second in two games and his 22nd of the season. His two-run drive in the eighth increased his RBI total to 71, putting him in relatively easy reach of his first 100-RBI season since 2008, when he capped a run of three years in a row over that plateau.
-- RHP Fernando Salas had had eight straight scoreless appearances and the Cardinals' bullpen had had an 11-inning scoreless streak, but both were shattered in the seventh inning on Monday. Salas allowed a single that scored, and so did LHP Barret Browning. Both runners came home on a two-run double off RHP Victor Marte by Los Angeles 2B Mark Ellis.
-- LHP Brian Fuentes did not pitch, as scheduled, for Class AA Springfield on Monday. Fuentes, who reported to Springfield after traveling from Jupiter, Fla., where he had been working with the Gulf Coast League team, will pitch Tuesday and Wednesday for Springfield. The Cardinals then likely will make a decision on whether to promote Fuentes, recently released by Oakland.
-- RHP Trevor Rosenthal, hitting 99 miles an hour on the radar gun, worked two perfect innings. The rookie call-up from Class AA Springfield, hasn't allowed a run in four innings over three games.
-- 3B David Freese, one of the Cardinals' most productive hitters lately, didn't play on Monday. He had been 0 for 6 with six strikeouts against Los Angeles right-hander Chad Billingsley, who started the Dodgers' 5-3 win. "It's not a real good matchup for him," said manager Mike Matheny. "Sometimes you just struggle with certain guys, so when we see those coming, we stay away from them."
-- 2B Skip Schumaker made his seventh start in the last 10, six of those at second base after starting only 11 times at second before the All-Star break. But, having been in and out of the lineup so much this season when he wasn't hurt, Schumaker is loathe to consider himself a regular even though he's hitting .314. "No one's told me anything," he said. "I just come to the yard ready to play, just like every other day. I've said that before and that's the truth. I haven't been handed that job and I don't expect to be."
-- 1B Lance Berkman, who hit his only home run of the season as a pinch hitter against the Dodgers on May 18, one night before he injured his right knee, has started just five of nine games since coming off his surgery. He says that he doesn't really deserve to play in front of hot-hitting 1B Allen Craig. But manager Mike Matheny said, "The only way we're going to get (Berkman) back into his timing is by playing him."
-- CF Jon Jay had two hits on Monday after getting four on Sunday, giving him his first consecutive multi-hit games since May 1-2.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 for 15 -- Cardinals' mark with runners on base on Monday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I felt like I got stung by a bee." -- RHP Joe Kelly on taking a first-inning bouncer off his bare hand. A rookie, Kelly stayed in the game to pitch six innings for the sixth straight time.