LOS ANGELES (AP) - The St. Louis Cardinals are having just as much difficulty keeping their players healthy as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who don't seem to be letting it affect them as much as the defending World Series champions.
Pinch-hitter Scott Van Slyke, the son of former Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke, connected for his first major league homer - a go-ahead, three-run shot in the seventh inning with his father watching from the stands - and the Dodgers rallied for a 6-5 victory Sunday night to complete a three-game sweep.
``It's very tough when you've got a team where almost every regular player is hurt. But we have to play with what we've got and keep fighting,' shortstop Rafael Furcal said after the Cardinals' NL Central lead shrank to a half-game over Cincinnati with their eighth loss in 10 games.
``We have a good team and we know we can do it,' Furcal added. ``Right now, everybody's struggling, but we've got to be positive and keep working.'
The Dodgers have a major league-best 28-13 record, are 15 games over .500 for the first time since the end of 2009 and enjoy a seven-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West - despite the fact that center fielder Matt Kemp, left fielder Juan Rivera, third baseman Juan Uribe and second baseman Mark Ellis - all are on the disabled list.
The Cardinals, who put first baseman Lance Berkman on the DL for the second time this year, continue a stretch of 30 games in 30 days with a seven-game homestand against San Diego and Philadelphia.
``We've got to bounce back from this stretch,' Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse said. ``I mean, there's no relief in sight as far as the schedule goes. We're not getting any off days for a while, but we've just got to suck it up and find ways to get it done. I feel like I could have pitched deeper into the game today, so I take that responsibility. But we have to pick each other up.'
Lohse allowed three runs and 11 hits over 5 2-3 innings with four strikeouts and left with a 5-3 lead. But rookie Elian Herrera started the Dodgers' winning rally with a one-out single against Victor Marte, and Bobby Abreu greeted Mark Rzepczynski (0-2), with a single.
Van Slyke got the green light from manager Don Mattingly on a 3-0 pitch and drove it into the left-field bullpen after Andre Ethier struck out. The home run was the third allowed in 15 1-3 innings this season by Rzepczynski, the only left-hander manager Mike Matheny has in the bullpen for situations like this.
``My plan was to go with sinkers away early and see if he could hit a groundball,' Rzepczynski said. ``Then I threw a 3-0 changeup, thinking he'd be a little bit out in front of it, I just left it up a little bit up, and it was right in his wheelhouse. He sat back on it and hit it well. He's got the power. I know it was his first career home run, but he was definitely up here for a reason - to get a chance to hit in that situation.'
Van Slyke's homer brought back a flood of memories for everyone who was at Dodger Stadium for Game 6 of the 1985 NL championship series, when his father was in the on-deck circle at Dodger Stadium and Jack Clark hit a go-ahead three-run homer to help the beat the Dodgers for the NL pennant.
Then-Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda had wanted Tom Niedenfuer to face Clark with first-base open because he felt that Andy Van Slyke had a better chance to do some damage against the Dodgers' tired closer.
``Tommy Lasorda reminds me of that every time he sees me,' Scott Van Slyke said with a laugh. ``I had also a couple of friends in the stands from St. Louis, and we're all from St. Louis. So I'm sure a little piece of them was cringing. But whatever team it was against, I think it would have been just as thrilling. It was important that the home run counted for something and helped the team win.'
Javy Guerra (2-3) got the win and Kenley Jansen retired the side in order in the ninth for his fifth save.
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley gave up five runs - three earned - and eight hits in six innings and struck out seven - including World Series MVP David Freese all three times he faced him. Freese also fanned against Guerra, dropping his average to .259.
The Cardinals purchased the contract of Triple-A first baseman Matt Adams after Berkman went on the DL for the second time this season because of an injured right knee, and the rookie smoked the first pitch he saw in the big leagues to center for a single in the second inning for the first of his two hits. He also started an inning-ending double play in the first after fielding Adam Kennedy's grounder in the hole.
``It's sad to see Lance go down with the knee injury, but I was definitely excited last night to get the phone call,' Adams said. ``I've worked so hard to get here, and hopefully I'll make the most of my opportunity. It's a dream come true. It's definitely exciting to see the `World Series Champions' patch on the sleeve, and even more exciting to put it on and play for the Cardinals.'
Notes: Van Slyke was born in July 1986 during his father's fourth and final season with the Cardinals. Andy hit 164 home runs in 1,658 big league games. ... James Loney's RBI single in the sixth was the 2,000th regular-season hit Lohse allowed in his 12-year career.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved