The Dodgers offense broke out of a mini-slump, hitting three home runs to beat the Cardinals 6-2 on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
It was a welcome outburst for a Dodgers team that scored only six runs in their last four games, avoiding a four-game losing streak only thanks to a two-run rally in the ninth inning on Thursday.
Jordan Montgomery’s first time facing the Dodgers did not go well for the sixth-year left-hander who was acquired by the Cardinals from the Yankees at the trade deadline. He allowed three home runs in the first two innings. The first was hit by Will Smith, who also tripled, the second three-bagger in three days for the Dodgers catcher.
Trayce Thompson also homered and walked against Montgomery. Cody Bellinger had two hits, including an RBI double as well.
Clayton Kershaw held St. Louis scoreless through five innings, allowing one runner to reach base in each frame. One was erased on a double play, with the only real early threat coming on Lars Nootbaar’s leadoff double in the third inning. Kershaw escaped that jam by striking out the next two batters and getting Paul Goldschmidt to line out to right field to end the frame.
The goose egg disappeared in the sixth, when Nolan Arenado hit a two-run shot, reaching the 30-homer and 100-RBI milestones in one fell swoop. Arenado’s home run cut the Dodgers’ lead to 6-2, and two infield dribblers followed — one hit, one error — but Kershaw escaped further damage.
Since returning from the injured list, Kershaw has allowed six runs in five starts, with 36 strikeouts and five walks.
Kershaw has pitched so well that his two-out walk of Nootbaar in the fifth inning was almost a surprise, just the second free pass for Kershaw in his previous 28 innings.
The Dodgers win was their 105th win of the season, one shy of a franchise record. It also lowered LA’s magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs to just one over the Mets (96-57). The Dodgers can clinch the No. 1 seed on Sunday with a win over St. Louis or a Mets loss in Oakland.
Hall of Fame battle
Albert Pujols notched the first career hit against Kershaw, an RBI double in the first inning of Kershaw’s major league debut, on May 25, 2008. Saturday marked the 17th game between the two, including the postseason.
One night after hitting his 699th and 700th home runs, Pujols had one hit in three at-bats in his final regular season battle against Kershaw, with a strikeout. The single came in the sixth, and Pujols scored on Arenado’s home run.
Pujols hasn’t homered off of Kershaw, but is 15-for-41 with three doubles against him to go with seven walks, hitting .366/.458/.488 against him.
On the board
Pressed into duty at first base for a second straight night after Freddie Freeman was scratched from Saturday’s lineup with an illness, Miguel Vargas joined the power parade with the Dodgers’ third home run of the night. The two-run shot off Montgomery in the second inning was the first major league home run for the 22-year-old Vargas, who was the youngest player on Triple-A Oklahoma City this season.
Saturday was Kershaw’s 20th start of the season, his 14th year with at least that many starts. It also earned him a $1-million bonus. Kershaw, who signed a one-year, $17-million contract in March, also earned an extra $1 million for his 16th start, on September 1. Kershaw’s next reachable bonus this year is 22 starts, for which he would receive another $1 million.
Home runs: Will Smith (23), Trayce Thompson (12), Miguel Vargas (1); Nolan Arenado (30)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (10-3): 6 IP, 8 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
LP — Jordan Montgomery (8-6): 4 IP, 7 runs, 6 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
The Dodgers finish off the homestand on Sunday afternoon (1:10 p.m., SportsNet LA). Michael Grove makes his fifth major league start in the series finale for the Dodgers, while Cardinals’ right-hander Adam Wainwright makes his 389th start.