Lance Lynn held the Dodgers to one run on five hits over six innings. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Not returning home, not the return of the Cool-A-Coo ice cream sandwich, not Dee Gordon trying (and failing) to steal his first base since July 4 and not the significance of the moment could change the Dodgers’ current course.
They still could not score, still could not win, could not stop their frightening slide.
They fell Thursday night to the one team they truly have to beat, falling, 2-1, to the St. Louis Cardinals before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 43,309 in the opener of a key four-game series.
The loss dropped the Dodgers two games back of the Cardinals for the second and final wild-card berth in the National League, and a season-high 7½ games back of the idle San Francisco Giants in the West.
The Dodgers managed just six hits in losing for the seventh time in their last eight games. They’re lucky to still be in the postseason conversation.
The Cardinals came in, however, playing no better. They had lost six of their last seven. Only on this night, they proved just better enough.
St. Louis broke a 1-1 tie after Paco Rodriguez, the greenest of rookies, walked pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to lead off the seventh. After Matt Carpenter singled with one out, Manager Don Mattingly called on reliever Ronald Belisario.
He got the second out when Matt Holiday lined out to Matt Kemp in center, but Allen Craig punched a hit in the hole between first and second, and Robinson scored the go-ahead run.
Just as the Dodgers had done the previous night, they jumped out to the early lead. And just like the previous night, they could not make it hold up.
Mark Ellis opened the bottom of the first with a single and Andre Ethier, batting second for only the third time this season, drew a walk. Kemp bounced into a double play, but Adrian Gonzalez doubled to left-center to score Ellis.
The Cardinals, however, got the run right back off right-hander Josh Beckett in the top of the second after a pair of one-out hits that went under the gloves of shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Ellis. Skip Schumaker singled to left to score the run.
The Cardinals were unable to collect on further threats to Beckett, however. They loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but Beckett struck out Daniel Descalso and right-hander Lance Lynn.
The Dodgers got out of more trouble in the sixth, thanks to Craig, who had led off with a double, running into Yadier Molina’s grounder for an automatic out. Molina, credited with a single, took second on a wild pitch. Beckett then intentionally walked Carlos Beltran, before turning things over to Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, who was just drafted last June and has only 21 games of minor league experience, got Schumaker to bounce into a force play and Descalso on a shallow fly to left that Shane Victorino made a nice running catch of.
Mattingly elected to keep Rodriguez (0-1) in the game to start the seventh, and that would come back to haunt.
In his 5 1/3 innings, Beckett gave up one run on seven hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. In his four starts as a Dodger, he has a 3.38 earned-run average.
Lynn, who had been in the bullpen since Aug. 24 and has a 7.13 ERA in his last 12 appearances, kept the Dodgers off-balanced after the first. He went six innings, holding the Dodgers to one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out seven.
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