MLB

Cardinals must figure out how to solve Dodgers' bullpen

ST. LOUIS -- Here is a pro tip for teams trying to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers: Try not to fall behind by the fifth or sixth inning, because their bullpen is proving to be mighty tough to solve.

That has been the Cardinals' problem the past two games, and St. Louis was unable to figure it out. The Cardinals will take another stab at keeping Los Angeles' relievers out of the equation Wednesday night in the third contest of a four-game series at Busch Stadium.

After firing four scoreless innings Monday in a 5-1 victory, the Dodgers' bullpen soaked up the last 15 outs Tuesday night in a 9-4 win. While their scoreless streak ended at 24 2/3 innings on Yadier Molina's leadoff homer in the eighth, that was all they allowed.

"That's one of the better bullpens in the game right now," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "We know if we get deep and they've got a lead, we've got work to do."

The Dodgers' relief corps leads the National League with a 2.65 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP, a 3.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 209 strikeouts.

Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts' lone concern at this point is the heavy usage of the bullpen over the past three games. Thanks to a rare short start Sunday by ace Clayton Kershaw, who lasted 4 1/3 innings, the relievers have picked up 41 outs in that span.

"It's not a recipe or formula you want to use all year, but that's baseball sometimes," Roberts said postgame Tuesday. "Again, tonight, our bullpen was huge."

Roberts might have to pick up the phone to call the bullpen early again Wednesday night with Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-5, 4.28) making the start in place of Alex Wood, who was 6-0 with a 1.69 ERA before going on the 10-day disabled list Monday with SC joint inflammation.

Ryu does have a successful, albeit brief, track record against the Cardinals: 1-1 in three career outings with a 1.50 ERA. He picked up a save against St. Louis last Thursday when he pitched the last four innings out of the bullpen to wrap up a 7-3 victory.

That was one of 10 victories in the past 12 games for Los Angeles (33-20), which has won six straight to take over first place in the NL West by a half-game over the Colorado Rockies.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals (24-25) turn to ace Carlos Martinez (3-4, 3.32) in an attempt to stem a skid that has seen them drop 10 of their past 13 games and fall under .500 for the first time since May 4.

Martinez absorbed the loss Friday night in a 10-0 setback at Colorado, although he logged a quality start, working 7 1/3 innings and giving up three runs. He is 2-2 with a 3.55 ERA in seven career outings against the Dodgers, fanning 34 over 33 innings.

After his team used five relievers to cover 18 outs Tuesday night, Matheny hinted that the Cardinals could add a fresh arm from the minors before the Wednesday night contest.