Zack Greinke dug the Dodgers a hole early, one their suddenly anemic offense couldn't dig out of in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday at Busch Stadium. They also lost Yasiel Puig to a sore left hand.
Puig was hit by a pitch on his left hand in the third inning, but remained in the game for five more defensive innings in right field, and one more at-bat, popping out in the sixth. Matt Kemp pinch hit for Puig in the eighth inning, representing the tying run, but struck out against Pat Neshek, who also struck out Hanley Ramirez to end the threat.
The Dodgers won three of four games in the regular season in St. Louis, but since then new Busch Stadium has returned to its house of horror status for Los Angeles. In addition to three playoff losses in St. Louis in the 2013 NLCS, the Dodgers have lost the first two games of this series and is 11-24 at new Busch Stadium, counting the postseason, since the stadium opened in 2006.
Much like his final start before the All-Star break, in Detroit, Greinke fell behind early in the first inning.
On Saturday the first four batters gave St. Louis a commanding advantage. Matt Carpenter battled back from an 0-2 count to work a leadoff walk, Kolten Wong followed with an infield single, and runners advanced into scoring position on a throwing error by second baseman Dee Gordon.
Matt Holliday, who drove in all three Cardinals runs on Friday, singled home two more runs for a 2-0 lead, then Matt Adams hit a first-pitch shot to right field for a 4-0 St. Louis lead just 17 pitches into the game for Greinke.
Though he didn't allow another run for the rest of his afternoon, Greinke was by no means sharp. He needed 100 pitches to get through the first five innings, issuing a season-high five walks. Greinke, who also had three strikeouts on Saturday, snapped a streak of 11 consecutive starts with two or fewer walks. He had just two walks and 30 strikeouts in his previous four starts.
The five walks by Greinke are tied for the most by a Dodgers starter this season, matching Josh Beckett on April 15.
The Dodgers put two runners on base in each of the first three innings against ordinary Joe Kelly, but after a pair of of double plays they scratched across a run in the third inning, needing an errant throw from third base by Carpenter to notch their first tally.
But after Ramirez reached on that infield single to third base, Kelly retired the final 13 batters he faced, earning his second win of the season.
Sam Freeman threw the Dodgers a lifeline in the eighth, first by virtue of not being Joe Kelly. Freeman walked Justin Turner, gave up a double to Gordon and a sacrifice fly to Carl Crawford, slicing the deficit to 4-2. But Neshek was brought in to restore order for St. Louis.
The Dodgers now have scored 12 runs in their last seven games, have no home runs in their last six games and 223 plate appearances, and have two multi-run innings in the last 69 innings.
Clayton Kershaw starts the finale for the Dodgers, as if that matters they way the offense is playing right now. Carlos Martinez takes his turn among underwhelming Cardinals starters to shut down the Dodgers on Sunday night on ESPN.
Thinking ahead a few days, Paul Maholm pitching two innings of relief on Saturday makes it unlikely he will start on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, a start that seems destined for Josh Beckett to make, returning from the disabled list as expected. Beckett threw a bullpen session without pain on Saturday morning without pain in his left hip, and is expected to start Tuesday. J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News has more details.
Home run: Matt Adams (12)
WP - Joe Kelly (2-1): 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
LP - Zack Greinke (11-6): 5⅔ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 5 walks, 3 strikeouts
Sv - Trevor Rosenthal (30): 1 IP, 1 hit