ST. LOUIS (AP) - The situation could not be any bleaker for the St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Tony La Russa refuses to play the blame game.
``We're all in this together,' La Russa said after the Los Angeles Dodgers scored an early knockout for the second straight day and completed their first road sweep of the season with a 9-4 victory on Wednesday. ``We talk all the time and we'll get it fixed together.
``Whether I talk or don't talk or some talk. Whatever.'
Lance Berkman said it certainly wasn't the manager's fault the Cardinals are 10 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers with only 32 games to go.
``He's not the one out there making bad pitches or having bad at_bats or not playing defense,' Berkman said. ``He's doing the best he can. I think it's all on us.'
Juan Rivera homered and knocked in three runs for the Dodgers, who outscored the Cardinals 24-7 in their first three-game sweep in St. Louis since Aug. 20-22, 1993. The Cardinals have dropped seven of nine and failed to capitalize on a loss by NL Central-leading Milwaukee.
La Russa said getting swept at home was ``as bad as it can get' but he says no one's giving up.
``That'll never happen, not to this club, not to the coaching staff or myself,' La Russa said. ``But disappointed - you get frustrated with some of the way the games are being played.
``This league forever and ever, all the major leagues, are as much a sign of your toughness and your character as they are your talent.'
Frustration is building in a fan base that showered more boos than usual the last few days. One fan wearing a blue Dodgers T-shirt was ejected after firing a baseball across the diamond from the stands and nearly striking Albert Pujols at first base when the Cardinals were on defense.
The Cardinals have been swept twice at home and Rivera homered in both, helping the Blue Jays take a three-game set from June 24-26 before the Dodgers traded for him in July.
Hiroki Kuroda (10-14) worked seven solid innings in 98-degree heat, the hottest first-pitch temperature of the year, and A.J. Ellis hit his first career homer off of Jaime Garcia (10-7) to give the Dodgers a two-day total of six long balls. Matt Kemp had two singles and two RBIs and James Loney had three hits with a pair of doubles and an RBI.
The Cardinals trailed 6-0 before Garcia got his first at-bat leading off the third, and a day earlier it was 7-0 before Kyle Lohse struck out for the final out of the second.
St. Louis was 1 1/2 games behind the Brewers after acquiring Edwin Jackson and Rafael Furcal at the trade deadline, but is 10-13 since while the Brewers have gone 24-5. Gerald Laird hit his first National League homer, a two-run drive in the seventh, and Skip Schumaker had a season-high four hits with an RBI to hike his average to .301.
Eight straight Dodgers reached safely to start a six-run third that matched their season best and put them up 6-1. The rally was kicked off by a pair of walks followed by six straight hits that produced at least one RBI.
Garcia, who had been 6-3 with a 2.06 ERA at home, finally recorded his first out of the inning on Kuroda's sacrifice and gave up seven runs in five innings. He's 0-3 in his last six starts and has lasted just five innings in four of his last five outings.
La Russa and Garcia, who exited with a 2.73 home ERA, both maintain fatigue is not an issue.
``I had a couple starts where it was tough,' Garcia said. ``Today it was no physical fatigue or anything. I felt good. It's just one of those things.'
Garcia said his biggest problem Wednesday was failing to take more time between pitches in the third.
``When stuff like that happens, you've got to step off and think about the pitch you're going to make,' Garcia said. ``Just relax for a little bit and try to limit the damage.
``I'm not going to lie, sometimes I don't do a very good job. But I'm trying.'
Kuroda has won four of his last five starts and is 3-2 with a 2.11 ERA in six day starts. The right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and a walk.
The Dodgers finished 4-3 against the Cardinals for their first series win since 2003 without an RBI from Andre Ethier, who got a day off Wednesday, and took the lead in the all-time series at 1,002-1,001.
Schumaker has five straight hits, all singles, since pitching the ninth in a 13-2 shellacking Tuesday night. He gave up a homer to Aaron Miles, a former teammate on the Cardinals' 2006 World Series championship team.
``Good to see he's bounced back from that shellacking he took,' Miles joked.
NOTES: The Dodgers are off Thursday, then play 24 straight days beginning with a six-game homestand against the Rockies and Padres. Ted Lilly (7-13, 4.58) opposes Colorado's Esmil Rogers (6-2, 6.00) on Friday night. ... Jackson (9-9, 4.03) faces Charlie Morton (9-6, 3.42) as the Cardinals open a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night. ... Rod Barajas' 11th multihomer game Tuesday was the Dodgers' first by a catcher since Russell Martin on Aug. 15, 2007 against the Astros. ... Kuroda has eight consecutive quality starts, longest for the Dodgers since Randy Wolf also had eight in a row Aug. 11-Sept. 26, 2009. ... Pujols has a hit in his first at-bat the last four games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved