Jon Jay of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates in the dugout after scoring… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Two similar teams, both playing .500 baseball for months, both hanging around a playoff spot, meeting and splitting a four-game series.
There wasn’t much difference between the Dodgers and Cardinals before they met this weekend, and there wasn’t much difference after St. Louis exited Sunday with a 5-2 victory in 12 innings.
The Cardinals left Los Angeles as they came, one game ahead of the Dodgers for the National League’s second and final wild-card berth, nothing really decided with 15 games left to play.
The Dodgers used a franchise-record 10 pitchers to try to keep the Cardinals at bay, but they broke through with three runs against John Ely in the 12th inning.
Jon Jay’s two-out double scored the go-ahead run. With the bases loaded, an infield single from Allen Craig and a walk to Yadier Molina scored two more.
Ely, the Pacific Coast League’s pitcher of the year, finished with a forgettable line. In two-thirds of an inning, he allowed three runs on two hits, three walks and a hit batter.
The Dodgers began the afternoon unsure of what to expect out of emergency starter Stephen Fife, but had to be thrilled after his shaky first inning.
Fife, starting in place of injured ace Clayton Kershaw, had all kinds of trouble in the first. Two hits, a walk, a wild pitch and a hit batter later, the Cardinals had jumped to a 2-0 lead.
But making only his fourth career start and first in the majors since Aug. 1, the 25-year-old was on top of his game after that. He gave up only two more hits over the next four innings, the only additional baserunners he allowed.
Fife left after five innings, having held the Cardinals to the two runs and four hits. He struck out nine -- including each of his first six outs. He was not involved in the decision, but now has a very good 2.49 earned-run average.
The Dodgers tied the score against Adam Wainwright quickly in the bottom of the third inning. Matt Treanor walked and Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer into the right-field stands. It was Ethier’s 19th home run of the season and second in three days.
Otherwise, Wainwright kept the Dodgers in check. He went six innings, holding them to the two runs on five hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
The Dodgers missed a big opportunity to win the game in the 10th after Mark Ellis led off with a single and was bunted to second base by A.J. Ellis. When a wild pitch from Fernando Salas advanced Ellis to second, the Cardinals intentionally walked pinch-hitter Juan Rivera.
But with the infield in, Shane Victorino bounced to second and the Cardinals caught Ellis in a rundown, as Rivera and Victorino advanced to second and third. That enabled the Cardinals to intentionally walk Ethier to load the bases and bring up Matt Kemp, something almost unthinkable when Kemp was not struggling. Kemp flied out to center field and the Dodgers squandered the scoring opportunity.