LOS ANGELES (AP) — Slightly more than halfway through their schedule, the defending NL West champion Dodgers still do not have a winning streak of more than three games.
Six attempts at a fourth straight victory have all ended in failure. And this time it was the team that eliminated them from last year’s playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals, who stopped Los Angeles in its tracks.
Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up a home run off the left-field foul pole by Yadier Molina in the fourth inning and a tiebreaking, two-run double by Jhonny Peralta in the fifth. The Dodgers couldn’t overcome that, managing only two harmless singles against four relievers through the final 4 2-3 innings of a 3-1 loss Friday night.
Ryu (9-4) gave up nine hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. The left-hander hasn’t walked more than two batters in any of his last 12 outings, but he’s allowed a home run in four of his last five starts after yielding just two in his first 10 games.
“Overall, it was a really good game for me,” Ryu said through a translator. “My control was there, my velocity was there and I managed my pitch count really well. The home run, it was just a good-hit ball. It was a changeup, maybe a little bit too close to the middle.”
Peralta, who struck out his first two times up, snapped a 1-all tie in the fifth with a two-out drive to the fence in right-center that scored Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday. That gave the shortstop six RBIs in his last six games.
“By the time that you realize maybe you have a play on it, it’s too late,” center fielder Scott Van Slyke said. “Obviously, I’m going full speed to try to catch it. I look up and I see (Yasiel) Puig. It looks like we’re equidistant to the ball. It’s just one of those things where it just fell in there.”
Van Slyke was making his ninth start in center. Playing alongside Puig can be hazardous because of his aggressiveness on every play – particularly in the alley, where the center fielder should have the right of way.
“When you’re in a tight game, and you’re in a game that one play changes something, if that ball happens and (we) end up tying the score somewhere, you guys don’t ask about it,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s a close game and every play counts. Any ball that you don’t get to can change the game.”
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis – two weeks off the disabled list after arthroscopic knee surgery – tried to stretch a single in the fourth. But right fielder Allen Craig made a great play, cutting off the ball while skidding across the foul line and throwing a perfect strike to Peralta at second base.
“Right off the bat, I tried to get over there as fast as I could to cut it off and keep him at second,” Craig said. “The ball kind of skipped on me, just because the grass is quick out there. So I had to slide just to get to it, then I just turned and threw it and tried to get it close to the bag.”
Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning despite the two-run lead. Manager Mike Matheny pulled him after a one-out single by Dee Gordon and a walk to Puig, but Seth Maness (3-2) retired Adrian Gonzalez on a double-play grounder.
Maness allowed one hit through 2 1-3 innings with two strikeouts. The right-hander got a huge assist from center fielder Jon Jay, who robbed Juan Uribe of a potential RBI double in the sixth when he sprinted toward the warning track and made a diving, backhanded grab.
“He was running his heart out. That’s a tough play, with the wall creeping up on him,” Craig said. “That was kind of a fearless play he made right there, and it came at a great time in the game. Good defensive plays can pick up a team.”
Pat Neshek retired Matt Kemp on a grounder with a runner at second in the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal got three outs for his 24th save in 27 chances, retiring Ellis on a double-play grounder to end it.
Martinez allowed a run and six hits, struck out four and walked three in his fourth major league start. The only run off him came on Gordon’s RBI single in the second.
NOTES: Dodgers starting pitchers have issued fewer than three walks in 31 consecutive games, matching the 1990 Pittsburgh Pirates for the longest such streak by an NL club since 1914. … St. Louis has allowed a major league-low 26 home runs on the road. … Seven of Molina’s last eight homers have been solo shots.