In a game that saw a Clayton Kershaw stolen base, pinch runner Drew Butera, and three more hit by pitches, it was Adrian Gonzalez who showed proof of life with the game-winning RBI single in the ninth inning in the Dodgers' 4-3 win over the Cardinals on Sunday night.
A.J. Ellis opened the ninth with a double against St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal, but after a pair of strikeouts things did not look good for the Dodgers. They looked especially worse when Rosenthal hit Hanley Ramirez in the hand by a pitch, the second time Ramirez was hit by a pitch on the night.*
Ramirez exited the game and with Yasiel Puig unavailable after getting hit on the hand himself on Saturday, the backup catcher Butera was brought in to pinch run for Ramirez. X-rays were negative on Ramirez's hand, per Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, but Ramirez, like Puig, will have his hand examined again when the Dodgers reach Pittsburgh.
*Both benches were warned after Kershaw hit Matt Holliday in retaliation for Ramirez getting hit in the shoulder in the fourth inning.
Gonzalez, 0-for-4 on the night at that point, hitting just .200 (11-for-55) with three extra-base hits in 15 games in July, singled to right field to score Miguel Rojas, who had entered as a pinch-runner for Ellis, giving the Dodgers a 4-3 advantage.
For Gonzalez, it was a welcome sight. Even with the single, the first baseman is hitting .224/.287/.338 with 12 doubles and six home runs in 70 games since the beginning of May. Not that he has been alone struggling on offense.
The Dodgers had scored just 12 runs in their previous seven games, and were averaging 3.6 runs per game in the month, but the offense showed glimpses of life early, scoring a run in the second on a triple by Andre Ethier and a single by Juan Uribe, then added two more runs in the third on RBI singles by Matt Kemp and Ethier for a 3-1 lead.
Carlos Martinez was unable to get through five innings for a second time against the Dodgers this season, allowing those three runs on six hits and a pair of walks in his four innings, with five strikeouts.
The score stayed that way until the sixth, when noted nemesis Matt Carpenter coaxed a 10-pitch walk to open the inning, Kershaw's only walk of the game. Peter Bourjos followed with a shot into the left field seats to tie the game at 3-3.
The three runs allowed by Kershaw in his seven innings were his most since doing the same on May 28 against the Reds.
Kershaw ended with eight strikeouts in his seven innings, his seventh consecutive start lasting at least seven frames.
Kershaw stole his base in the fourth inning after reaching on a force play. It was the first stolen base of Kershaw's career, and the first steal by a Dodgers pitcher this season. While on the mound, Kershaw has only allowed two steals this year, in four attempts.
After tying the game in the sixth, St. Louis threatened with runners in scoring position in both the seventh and eighth. In the seventh Ellis threw to second to pick off old friend Mark Ellis to end the inning, and in the eighth J.P. Howell, in relief of Brian Wilson, got Matt Adams to ground out with two on to end that threat.
Howell picked up the win in relief, and Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 28th save, tying his career high set in 2013.
The Dodgers move on to Pittsburgh for a three-game series against the Pirates, winners of three straight games. Hyun-Jin Ryu gets the start in the opener on Monday night, with old friend Edinson Volquez starting for Pittsburgh.
Home run: Peter Bourjos (3)
WP - J.P. Howell (2-3): 1 up, 1 down
LP - Seth Rosenthal (1-5): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 3 strikeouts
Sv - Kenley Jansen (28): 1 IP, 1 strikeout