Cardinals beat Dodgers 9-2 for 4th straight win

The St. Louis Cardinals kept rolling at the plate, hitting a home run for the eighth straight game. And this time, the slugger's name wasn't Pujols, Holliday or Berkman.

Allen Craig, starting in place of Lance Berkman, who got the night off, hit a three-run shot in the fifth inning and the Cardinals routed the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers 9-2 Saturday night to win their fourth in a row and sixth in seven games.

"I didn't go out there looking to have a big night. Just tried to pitch in and make something happen," Craig said. "Last year was a big learning experience for me coming off the bench and not playing a lot. It's not easy coming off the bench, but I'm more prepared for it."

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.

"We're going to take consistent at-bats," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who is fighting a severe right eye infection. "Our approach is very competitive and sometimes it makes a difference."

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.

"I felt good, the best I've felt yet this year — including spring training," he said. "I just felt at any time I could throw a strike whenever I wanted."

The Dodgers started ace Clayton Kershaw (2-2), but he got into bases-loaded jams in the second and third while laboring through 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing this season. The left-hander gave up five runs and six hits, struck out a season-low five and walked a season-high five while throwing 111 pitches.

"I walked too many guys and threw away too many pitches. I tried to battle my way through it, but the home run did us in," Kershaw said. "When you're throwing tons of pitches and battling, you've really got to keep your team in the game. But 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."

The offense didn't provide him much support. Juan Uribe was hitless in four at-bats as the Dodgers lost their fifth in a row and sixth in seven games.

"We've got to keep turning the page. We've got to get some momentum on our side and start putting some wins together," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "I have confidence in what we're capable of doing."

Craig provided the Cardinals' power a night after Albert Pujols and 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's how the game goes," Craig said. "We lost some close games early on that we probably could have won. It's not to say we're going to score 10 runs every game."

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," 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.