Even ace Clayton Kershaw couldn't rescue the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers against St. Louis.
Kershaw labored through his shortest outing of the season in a 9-2 defeat Saturday night, getting into a pair of bases-loaded jams while receiving little run support in the Dodgers' fifth straight loss.
The left-hander gave up a three-run homer to Allen Craig in the fifth and never got out of the inning.
"It was just one of those nights. I walked too many guys and threw away too many pitches," he said. "I tried to battle my way through it, but the home run did us in. When you're throwing tons of pitches and battling, you've really got to keep your team in the game.
"After that home run, a 5-1 lead is pretty tough to come back from, especially when they're playing the way they are right now. They're swinging the bats really well."
It was the seventh straight game that the Cardinals scored six or more runs and the first time in six games that they didn't put up at least 14 hits. They had 13, including five straight in the ninth off Ramon Troncoso, to win their third in a row over Los Angeles.
Kershaw (2-2) was chased after 4 2-3 innings. He gave up five runs and six hits, struck out a season-low five and walked a season-high five.
"It's not pressure, but you definitely want to be the guy that can get your team out of it and stops the bleeding," he said. "Unfortunately, I just kind of kept it going."
While Kershaw struggled, so did the Los Angeles offense. Juan Uribe was hitless in four at-bats as the Dodgers lost their fifth in a row and sixth in seven games. They were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
The Cardinals have touched up Dodgers pitching through the first three games of the series, hitting .403 with six homers and 29 runs scored.
St. Louis won its fourth in a row and sixth in seven games.
Kyle McClellan (2-0) allowed one run and six hits in seven innings, struck out two and walked none to earn his second major league victory as a starter in six days.
Craig provided the Cardinals' power a night after sluggers Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman each homered in consecutive at-bats. Pujols managed two singles in five at-bats and struck out twice, while Matt Holliday went 1 for 3 with two walks and an RBI.
"That guy's got a great arm," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said about Kershaw. "Everybody went up there and fought off a lot of tough pitches. That's the best at-bats you can have against a guy who's got that much stuff."
Kershaw got out of his first bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out the final two batters. In the third, however, he walked Holliday to load the bases again and David Freese's sacrifice fly scored the Cardinals' first run.
They took a 2-0 lead in the third on Ryan Theriot's RBI double to deep left.
The Dodgers cut their deficit to 2-1 in the fourth. Andre Ethier, who went 3 for 4, singled to extend his major league-leading hitting streak to 13 games. He scored on James Loney's grounder to first, as catcher Gerald Laird went up the third base line to take Pujols' throw and missed the sweep tag.
In the fifth, Pujols singled and Holliday walked before Craig's first homer of the season chased Kershaw and made it 5-1. It was the first homer Kershaw has allowed to any current St. Louis hitter.
NOTES: The Dodgers recalled Troncoso from Triple-A Albuquerque and placed LHP Hong-Chih Kuo on the 15-day disabled list with a left lower back strain, retroactive to April 14. "The good thing is it's not an elbow or shoulder. We feel it's muscular," manager Don Mattingly said, adding that Kuo wouldn't throw for a couple of days while undergoing tests. ... Thirteen of Craig's 24 career RBIs have come with two outs. ... Dodgers pinch-hitter Ivan De Jesus Jr. singled in the seventh for his first major league hit. ... The Cardinals won their 1,000th game all-time against the Dodgers on Friday night. ... IndyCar driver Marco Andretti, in town for Sunday's Long Beach Grand Prix, threw out the first pitch, sailing the ball over the head of former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, acting as catcher. Andretti got a second chance and Lasorda caught it with Andretti's grandfather, Mario, looking on. ... Dodgers GM Ned Colletti turned 56.