LOS ANGELES – The St. Louis Cardinals had a chance to put a little more distance between themselves and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL wild card race after getting home runs from Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday in a span of seven batters.
Then one swing by Luis Cruz changed that. Cruz greeted St. Louis reliever Edward Mujica with a first-pitch, three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Cardinals lost 8-5.
Trevor Rosenthal (0-2) inherited a 4-3 lead from fellow rookie Joe Kelly after five innings and game up a leadoff single by Andre Ethier, who got the Dodgers back into the game in the third with a two-run homer. Rosenthal hit Hanley Ramirez on a 1-0 count two outs later.
"To me, Rosey's been throwing the ball as good as anybody we have right now," manager Mike Matheny said. "We've put him in higher-leverage situations, and he's thrown the ball well. We have quite a few guys down there, so there's lots of options. But I felt very good about him coming in. Rosey's the guy we wanted there."
Matheny then made the fateful switch to Mujica, who had allowed one run in 19 innings over his 20 previous appearances with St. Louis after he was acquired in a trade with Miami on July 31. But the right-hander also had given up 16 runs and five homers in his 21 previous career innings against the Dodgers coming into the game.
"It was one pitch," Matheny said. "We got him into trouble by putting a couple of guys on base, and that usually adds some tough outs. But he's been terrific for us."
The Dodgers had a similar come-from-behind victory over the Cardinals on May 20 at Los Angeles, when pinch-hitter Scott Van Slyke hit a go-ahead three-run homer off Mark Rzepczynski in the seventh inning.
"I felt a little out of my timing today, so before that at-bat I just told myself to take a pitch, just to see if he was thinking about pitching me inside," Cruz said. "But I was relaxed, and I saw it just hanging there. So I just reacted and hit it. But I wasn't trying to hit a homer."
Adrian Gonzalez made it 8-4 with a two-run double in the seventh off the glove of a diving Holliday. The hit was given up by Rzepczynski, but both runs were charged to Sam Freeman. Kelly allowed three runs and four hits in five innings with two strikeouts and two walks.
"Joe was struggling, and it was one of those days for the bullpen to come in and pick up the starter in those middle innings," Matheny said. "We all know very well that it's hurt us, and it continued to do so tonight."
Rookie Shawn Tolleson (2-1) pitched a 1 1-3 innings of hitless relief for the victory after the Dodgers got starter Chris Capuano off the hook. Capuano was charged with four runs — two earned — and six hits in four innings.
"We've faced him before, and with his stuff, he likes to get ahead in the count," Carpenter said. "So we were looking for pitches that we could handle out over the plate and try to put good swings on them. We were able to do that and get some runs off him early. Obviously we would have liked to come out with a victory, but it is what it is, and we'll be out here tomorrow ready to go."
The temperature was 96 degrees when Capuano threw his first pitch, and the 34-year-old left-hander grew even hotter under the collar in the second inning when Molina drove an 0-2 pitch to left-center for his 19th homer and Carpenter added his sixth of the season two batters later. It was the 12th time Capuano allowed two homers in an inning during his eight big league seasons.
The Dodgers, averaging only 1.6 runs over their previous eight games, got on the board in the bottom half when Gonzalez led off with a double and scored on a groundout by Cruz, but the Cardinals extended their lead to 4-1 in the third when Carlos Beltran reached on a two-out throwing error by shortstop Ramirez and Holliday cashed it in with his 27th home run.
The Dodgers responded in the bottom half when Ethier got the green light from manager Don Mattingly on a 3-0 pitch and drove his 18th homer deep into the pavilion seats in right-center after a two-out walk to Shane Victorino — back in the leadoff spot for the first time since Aug. 27 with second baseman Mark Ellis getting the night off.
"Dre's home run on a 3-0 green light was huge," Mattingly said. "He's dangerous and especially aggressive when you let him go on 3-0. This was a good time for those home runs. It's a two-game swing. I'm just glad I don't have to talk about another loss."
NOTES: RHP Chris Carpenter is scheduled to throw 90 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday with the hope of making his season debut for the Cardinals by next week. He was shut down during spring training because of thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent surgery July 19. ... Molina, the Cardinals' All-Star catcher, picked off Nick Punto at first base in the fifth after he beat out a slow-hit grounder to third base with the Cardinals leading 4-3 and pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu at the plate. ... Molina had no RBIs in 24 at-bats this season against the Dodgers prior to his homer. ... Holliday's home run was the 113th allowed this season by the Dodgers' staff, the second-fewest in the majors and one more than the Washington Nationals. ... Bad Timing Dept: On the day before the NHL lockout was to officially begin, a ceremonial first pitch was thrown by captain Dustin Brown of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. ... The crowd of 40,167 pushed the Dodgers home attendance total to 3,022,468. Last year they failed to reach 3 million for the first time in a non-strike season since 1992.