Extra-base hits spelled doom for Dan Haren, who continued his free fall on Friday night in St. Louis, not that the Dodgers offense gave him much room for error. Los Angeles fell behind early on Friday and dropped the opener of a three-game series, 3-2 to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The loss moved the Dodgers (54-44, .551) back into a virtual tie for first place in the National League West, percentage points behind San Francisco (53-43, .552).
The Cardinals struck first, in the first, with back-to-back doubles with one out off Haren, one by Kolten Wong to left field and another by Matt Holliday to the center field wall for a 1-0 lead.
St. Louis tagged Haren for more extra bases in the fourth inning, though the Dodgers got a lucky bounce when Jon Jay 's two-out double just beyond the reach of Matt Kemp in left field hit the warning track and caromed into the seats, forcing Allen Craig, who was on first base, to hold at third. He did not score.
In the fifth inning the Wong-Holliday combination struck again with a single and home run by Holliday, the latter the 20th home run allowed by Haren this season, second-most in the National League. He has allowed 18 home runs in his last 13 starts, with a 5.25 ERA during that span.
Haren also allowed four doubles on Friday, giving him 31 allowed on the season, tied for third-most in the league. The final double was hit by Jhonny Peralta in the fifth inning with two outs, and when Craig followed with a walk Haren't night was done.
The veteran right-hander failed to last five innings for the third time in his last five starts, exacerbating the problem.
Haren left trailing 3-0 with a pair of runners on base. Chris Perez stranded those two runners, then followed with a perfect sixth inning. Paco Rodriguez, just called up Friday, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, and Brandon League pitched a scoreless eighth to keep the Dodgers in it.
Dodgers relievers retired 10 of the 11 batters they faced.
Los Angeles finally got on the board in the seventh inning with back-to-back doubles by Juan Uribe and A.J. Ellis, followed by a wild pitch to score Ellis to pull within 3-2.
That was the only blemish against Lance Lynn, who struck out nine in his six-plus innings of work. It was a far cry from his June 30 outing at Dodger Stadium when he allowed seven runs in two innings.
Two runners on gave the Dodgers a chance in the eighth inning, but Pat Neshek struck out Andre Ethier and got Uribe to foul out to end the threat.
Trevor Rosenthal shut the Dodgers down in the ninth to close out the game.
Zack Greinke gets the call in the middle game of the series on Saturday afternoon, a 1 p.m. PT start on Fox Sports 1 (and SportsNet LA). Joe Kelly starts for St. Louis.
Home run: Matt Holliday (7)
WP - Lance Lynn (11-6): 6 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts
LP - Dan Haren (8-7): 4⅔ IP, 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
Sv - Trevor Rosenthal (29): 1 IP, 1 strikeout