ST. LOUIS (AP) – The Los Angeles Dodgers are surging, and that’s rather common against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Handing the ball to Clayton Kershaw may keep the Dodgers rolling.
Los Angeles looks to match a season high with its sixth straight victory and extend its win streak against the Cardinals to nine on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium.
The Dodgers (53-44) have rebounded from a four-game skid with five consecutive wins and remain 1 1/2 games behind NL West-leading San Francisco. They’re looking to close that gap before visiting their biggest rivals for a three-game set this weekend.
Chad Billingsley pitched Los Angeles to a season high-tying fourth straight road win in Monday’s series-opening 5-3 victory. The Dodgers have won eight straight against St. Louis for the second time since moving to Los Angeles and first since 1975-76.
A surprising contributor lately has been Luis Cruz, who hit a three-run homer Monday and has driven in eight runs in the past six games. Cruz, who was recalled earlier this month to replace injured shortstop Dee Gordon, has 14 hits this season – eight for extra bases.
“I don’t really look at him as a power hitter but when he hits it, it stays hit,” manager Don Mattingly said. “This is no little Punch and Judy. He gets it, it’s going to go.”
Kershaw (7-5, 2.72 ERA) is 4-2 with a 2.75 ERA in nine career starts against the Cardinals, compiling a 1.78 ERA and 2-1 record in four on the road.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has thrown 15 scoreless innings while winning his last two starts versus St. Louis (50-46), including a six-hitter in a 6-0 home victory May 19.
He was impressive for the second consecutive start Wednesday, yielding one run with seven strikeouts over eight innings of a 5-3, 12-inning win over Philadelphia.
Dodgers star Matt Kemp is hitting .441 with three homers and 11 RBIs in his last eight matchups versus St. Louis, but he’s 2 for 14 against Adam Wainwright, Tuesday’s scheduled starter.
Wainwright (7-10, 4.42) will try to get St. Louis back on track after it had a three-game win streak snapped Monday.
The right-hander has lost back-to-back starts with a 3.38 ERA, but he can’t be blamed for Wednesday’s 4-3 defeat at Milwaukee. He matched his season high with nine strikeouts and allowed four runs in seven innings, but only one was earned since the defense made three errors.
“You can’t really control what goes on behind you or anything else,” Wainwright said. “You just have to make your next pitch and trust your defense.”
Wainwright is 2-1 with a 0.70 ERA in five games – three starts – at home against the Dodgers, winning the last two with 14 scoreless innings.
Carlos Beltran homered for the second game in a row Monday. His 22 home runs match his total from last year with the New York Mets and San Francisco, while his 71 RBIs tie Arizona’s Jason Kubel for the NL lead.
Beltran is 3 for 16 against Kershaw.
Updated July 24, 2012