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Scott Van Slyke's pinch-hit home run lifts Dodgers over Cardinals, 6-5

Rookie's three-run drive in the seventh inning, his first home run in the majors, proves the game winner. He got the green light from Manager Don Mattingly to swing on a 3-and-0 pitch from Marc Rzepczynski.

May 20, 2012|By Jim Peltz

The effect of Sunday's solar eclipse was slightly evident at Dodger Stadium in the fifth and sixth innings, the day's fading sunlight growing even dimmer across the ballpark's right-field corner.

Then matters suddenly brightened for the Dodgers when rookie Scott Van Slyke slugged a pinch-hit, three-run home run that erased a St. Louis Cardinals lead and led the Dodgers to a 6-5 victory and a sweep of their three-game series.

Van Slyke homered in only his ninth big league at-bat and after getting the green light from Manager Don Mattingly to swing at a 3-and-0 pitch from reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

"That's what he's up for," Mattingly said of Van Slyke, 25. "I sent him up there to hit."

Once again, the Dodgers won despite having several of their regular players on the disabled list and enduring another wobbly performance by starting pitcher Chad Billingsley.

The Dodgers' record improved to 28-13, best in the major leagues, and their lead in the National League West grew to seven games over the San Francisco Giants, who lost.

Van Slyke, a Missouri native and son of former major league player Andy Van Slyke, who played for the Cardinals in 1983-86, said it was "not only hitting the home run but having it mean something, and helping the team win was a little more exciting than just the actual home run."

With St. Louis leading, 5-3, another recent Dodgers call-up, Elian Herrera, and Bobby Abreu singled with one out in the seventh inning and Van Slyke was sent up to pinch-hit for Adam Kennedy.

Van Slyke said that, at first, "with pretty speedy guys on base, I just wanted to get a pitch I could drive in the gap. When I got 3-0, I think my thought process changed a little bit [to] maybe give myself one shot to take the lead."

After the "shot" put the Dodgers ahead, Van Slyke was mobbed in the team's dugout, and after it proved the game winner, Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp gave Van Slyke a celebratory towel full of shaving cream in the face as they left the field.

Mattingly also quickly praised Herrera, who had three singles and twice ignited run-scoring rallies.

"Herrera was tremendous tonight," Mattingly said.

After Billingsley pitched six innings, relievers Javy Guerra, Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen each tossed a scoreless inning against St. Louis, which has lost eight of its last 10 games. Guerra picked up the win and Jansen his fifth save.

Billingsley gave up five runs (three earned) and eight hits, walked four and struck out seven.

He escaped jams in the first and second innings, the latter coming when former Dodger Rafael Furcal hit a grounder with the bases loaded that Billingsley fielded to start a double play to end the inning.

After sailing through the next two innings, Billingsley gave up three runs in the fifth inning, including a two-run triple to Skip Schumaker. Then he gave up a two-run bloop single to Furcal in the sixth inning.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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