Despite struggling of late, both the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers remain in good position to claim the second wild-card berth in the NL.
With a one-game lead over the Dodgers for that spot, the Cardinals look to avoid a fourth straight loss overall and fifth consecutive defeat at Chavez Ravine on Thursday night.
Hoping for the chance to defend its World Series title, St. Louis (75-68) has not looked like a postseason contender while losing 11 of 15. The Cardinals head to Los Angeles after a 3-2 loss Wednesday concluded a three-game sweep by San Diego."Overall, it doesn't matter (how hard the team plays) because it all comes down to whether you win," manager Mike Matheny said. "They are still aware of the sense of urgency."
That's because St. Louis owns a slim wild-card lead over the Dodgers (74-69). The two also have Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Philadelphia within three games or less of that second and final spot."St. Louis and ourselves, we have let a lot of people back in the race - but it's still in our hands," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "No matter how bad it has looked and no matter where it has been, it's still right there for us."
The Cardinals have been outscored 20-11 during a four-game skid at Dodger Stadium, but Los Angeles has dropped three in a row and six of seven overall. They open the four-game set against Josh Beckett (1-2, 3.86 ERA), who is 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA in six starts against them but has not faced St. Louis since 2005.
Though Beckett allowed four runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-2 loss at San Francisco on Friday, he hopes for a second straight strong outing at Dodger Stadium. The right-hander allowed a home run and struck out nine in 6 2-3 innings of a 2-1 victory over Arizona on Sept. 1 in his first appearance at Chavez Ravine since Los Angeles acquired him from Boston.
"They didn't bring me here to pitch OK," Beckett told the Dodgers' official website after his last outing. "They brought me here to pitch good."
The Cardinals counter with Lance Lynn (14-7, 4.04), who returns to the rotation in place of the injured Jake Westbrook after being relegated to the bullpen for the past two weeks. Lynn, who won his first six starts and earned an All-Star nod this season, went 0-1 with a 6.56 ERA in his last five starts before his demotion. His most recent start came Aug. 24 at Cincinnati, where he allowed four runs in two innings of an 8-5 win.
Despite Lynn's recent struggles, Matheny feels confident putting the right-hander in this important situation.
"We know that's not going to affect him, and we believe in his stuff," he told the Cardinals' official website.
In his only previous appearance versus Los Angeles, Lynn gave up four runs in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-5 loss at Dodger Stadium on May 18.
St. Louis slugger Carlos Beltran is batting .131 (8 for 61) with one extra-base hit in his last 18 games. He's 3 for 15 (.200) versus Beckett.
Adrian Gonzalez drove in both runs during Los Angeles' 3-2 loss at Arizona on Wednesday. The Dodgers, 6-11 since acquiring Gonzalez and Beckett, have hit .212 and scored 13 runs in their last seven contests.
Los Angeles star Matt Kemp is 4 for 36 (.111) with 11 strikeouts in his last nine games while teammate Hanley Ramirez is 2 for 19 (.105) and fanned seven times in his last five. Kemp and Ramirez are a combined 8 for 46 (.174) versus St. Louis in 2012.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|September 09, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Swollen left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Matt Carpenter||Day-to-Day||Cut hand|
|September 09, 2012||Jake Westbrook||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|September 11, 2012||Adam Kennedy||60-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|September 09, 2012||Clayton Kershaw||Day-to-Day||Sore hip|
|September 08, 2012||Matt Kemp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder strain|
|September 08, 2012||Adam Kennedy||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|September 03, 2012||Javy Guerra||15-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|September 01, 2012||Chris Withrow||60-Day DL||Recovery from torn pectoral muscle|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Although Allen Craig 's bouncing single didn't look like much, it was just what Lance Lynn and the St. Louis Cardinals needed to get back on track in the wild-card race.
Craig drove in Shane Robinson with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, and the Cardinals extended their NL wild-card lead over Los Angeles to two games with a 2-1 victory over the struggling Dodgers on Thursday night.
Lynn (15-7) pitched six innings of five-hit ball to earn his first win since July 27 for the Cardinals, striking out seven in the All-Star's stellar return to the rotation after a bullpen demotion. Yet he wasn't rewarded for his effort until Craig's single eluded two Dodgers and squeaked into right field.
"It's definitely a dogfight," said Craig, a Southern California native. "To be part of a close game with a lot of energy and to come out on top is great for our team. ... I thought it had a good chance to get through. I didn't know if I hit it hard enough, but I did."
Skip Schumaker had an early run-scoring single as St. Louis (76-68) snapped its three-game skid and a four-game road losing streak with a nail-biting win over the Dodgers (74-70), who have lost four straight. With Lynn in charge on the mound, the defending World Series champion Cardinals eked out just enough runs to earn their fourth win in 16 games in the opener of a key four-game series.
After getting banished to the bullpen last month, Lynn made the most of his chance to take the turn of injured Jake Westbrook . Lynn won his first six starts this season and was voted to the All-Star game by the players, but plummeted out of favor and made six relief appearances since his previous start Aug. 24.
"That's one of the best starts he's had this season," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It just says volumes about his makeup and his stuff. It was a tough transition to the bullpen, and some guys handle it better than others. ... He showed he learned some things and couldn't wait to go out there and still prove he was ready to start."
Both teams stumbled into Dodger Stadium hardly resembling the top two contenders to face Atlanta in the NL wild card playoff game. St. Louis and Los Angeles had lost three straight and six of seven, allowing Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and even Arizona to creep into striking distance in the wild-card race.
"You definitely want to get off to a great start against a team we're playing for a wild-card berth," Lynn said.
Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI double in the Dodgers' seventh loss in eight games, putting a gloom over Dodger Stadium while the Cardinals wrapped it up.
Jason Motte gave up Hanley Ramirez 's two-out double in the ninth, but got Shane Victorino on a soft flyball to complete his 34th save.
"The pitchers are doing their job, but we're not scoring runs," said Matt Kemp , who went 1 for 4. "One run is not going to win games in series like this, so we've got to find a way to get the job done. I can't really explain what's going on. You just take one good at-bat at a time and see where it takes you."
Josh Beckett gave up seven hits and a run while pitching into the sixth inning of his fourth start for Los Angeles, while rookie Paco Rodriguez (0-1) and Ronald Belisario allowed the seventh-inning rally capped by Craig's RBI single.
"We've got to stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and go out and win games ourselves," Beckett said. "That's a good ballclub over there, but we've got to figure out some way to win this series. They're the ones that we're chasing."
Beckett struck out six and had decent numbers despite laboring through long stretches of his second home start since the trade. He also didn't endear himself to Dodgers fans by putting a line drive into right field in the third inning and then getting thrown out at first by Carlos Beltran when he didn't hustle to the base.
After rescuing Beckett from a sixth-inning jam, Rodriguez walked Robinson and allowed Matt Carpenter 's one-out single in the seventh. Belisario got Matt Holliday on a fly to center, but Craig delivered.
NOTES: Jose Canseco watched the game from a field box wearing a black T-shirt reading: "Sorry For Everything Mark," an apparent reference to Mark McGwire , his former Oakland Athletics teammate and the Cardinals' hitting coach. ... Craig was born in Mission Viejo and graduated from high school in Temecula. ... Rodriguez began this year at the University of Florida, where he made the All-SEC first team. The Dodgers' second-round pick was the first member of the 2012 draft class to make the majors when he debuted in San Francisco last Sunday. ... Beckett hadn't pitched against the Cardinals since 2005. ... Entering the night, Lynn led the NL with 6.60 runs of support per game. ... IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves threw out the first pitch. IndyCar finishes its season this weekend in Fontana.