Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, left, is congratulated by teammate Tony… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
While waiting for the Dodgers to come back to Earth, this very strange thing keeps happening. They keep winning. Not always in the most aesthetic way, but they keep finding ways to win.
The latest test to their standing as the team with baseball’s best record came Friday in the form of the world champion St. Louis Cardinals.
And somehow, once again, they found a way to win, edging the Cardinals, 6-5, when reliever Fernando Salas walked A.J. Ellis with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning before an announced crowd of 40,906 that pushed their record to 26-13.
The Dodgers thought they had won the battle of division leaders in the seventh inning when James Loney blooped a hit to left to score Andre Ethier, whose knee looked very healthy as he rounded third to score. breaking a 4-4 tie.
But with Kenley Jansen one out away from earning his fifth save, pinch-hitter Lance Berkman hit a solo home run to tie the score in the ninth inning. It was his first home run of the season.
However in the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Elian Herrera walked, and after Ethier struck out, Adam Kennedy’s fourth hit of the game sent him to third. Loney was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Salas walked A.J. Ellis on four pitches to send in the winning run.
Things started promisingly enough for the Dodgers when they scored three times in the second inning. That equaled the most runs right-hander Lance Lynn had given up in a single game all season.
The Dodgers got consecutive doubles by Kennedy, again batting fifth, and Loney for the first run. Ellis singled to left and third base coach Tim Wallach waved Loney home.
Matt Holiday’s throw was wide and up the line. Catcher Yadier Molina reached for throw and tried to swipe at Loney, but a nice slide left him out of reach and he tagged the plate as he slid past. Tony Gwynn followed with a run-scoring triple and the Dodgers were up 3-0.
The Cardinals, however, came right back with four runs in the top of the fourth. Tyler Greene bunted for a hit but Ellis had him picked off … except Loney seemed asleep at first and reacted too slowly, the throw sailing past him. Ellis was charged with an error as Greene took second.
Lilly followed by striking out Shane Robinson. The pitch, however, was in the dirt and got away from A.J. Ellis and Robinson reached first safely on the wild pitch. Lynn’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, before Rafael Furcal’s fly to center sacrificed Greene home.
Manager Don Mattingly was then ejected after arguing Matt Carpenter had failed to check his swing on a 1-2 pitch, and Carpenter followed by singling in a run. Holiday drilled his ninth home run of the year to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead. Because of the error, none of the runs were earned.
It was a brief 4-3 lead. The Dodgers tied the score in the bottom of the third after Mark Ellis led off with a hit and Bobby Abreu walked. Kennedy’s single scored Ellis with the tying run.
It remained a 4-4 game in the bottom of the seventh inning when Abreu was safe on an infield hit off reliever Mark Rzepczynski, thanks partially to a poor throw by Furcal. It must have rattled him, because when Ethier hit a bouncer to Greene at second that looked like a double play, Furcal’s relay to first sailed for an error and Ethier took second.
After Kennedy walked, Loney then looped a single to left to score Ethier with the go-ahead run.
Lilly left after seven innings, having allowed only four hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out six. Outside of the Holiday homer, he pitched well and lowered his earned-run average to 1.79.
Lynn went six innings for St. Louis, and was charged with four runs on nine hits and two walks. He struck out five.
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