Cards, Dodgers meet in opener between struggling clubs

The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers could very well play themselves out of a postseason spot.

While other clubs are heating up and making a run, St. Louis looks to retain its hold on one of the final postseason spots in the National League when it begins a four-game series Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

St. Louis is one game ahead of Los Angeles in the wild card standings, while Pittsburgh is 2 1/2 games behind and both Milwaukee and Philadelphia have crept within three games.

The Cardinals opened a seven-game road trip by losing all three games in San Diego, culminating with Wednesday's 3-2 loss from Petco Park. Kyle Lohse was aiming for his 15th win of the season, but was tagged for three runs, two of which were earned, in six innings. He had eight strikeouts and no walks.

"I felt really good out there, just made a couple of mistakes," Lohse said. "They did a really good job of hitting some decent pitches. Those go a little differently, we have a different story here."

Matt Carpenter hit a two-run home run for the defending World Series champion Cardinals, who have lost six of seven games overall, four straight on the road and eight of their last nine away from Busch Stadium.

Carlos Beltran was not in the starting lineup to rest and walked in the top of the ninth as a pinch-hitter. Beltran, the first switch-hitter with 300 homers and 300 stolen bases, could return this evening and is batting .208 with one homer and three RBI in six games against L.A. this season.

"He claims physically he feels pretty good -- that's all relative to this time of the year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of the slugging center fielder. "There were a couple periods of time where he wasn't feeling as good ... right in the middle of what he's got going on right now ... I don't think he'd every deny that was an impact."

Lance Lynn draws the start for Matheny's club tonight and is back in the rotation with Jake Westbrook sidelined by an oblique injury. Lynn, who starred in the rotation early on and won his first six starts, threw a scoreless inning of relief in Sunday's 5-4 win over Milwaukee. He is 14-7 with a 4.04 earned run average in 31 games (25 starts) this season.

The right-handed Lynn faced the Dodgers for the first time in a 6-5 road loss on May 18 and did not record a decision. He was tagged for four runs and nine hits in six innings of work.

Los Angeles was just swept in a quick two-game set at Arizona and has lost three in a row and six of its last seven games.

The Dodgers finished a five-game road trip at 1-4 following Wednesday's 3-2 loss, as Justin Upton and Gerardo Parra both had RBI singles in the bottom of the sixth inning to propel the Diamondbacks.

Adrian Gonzalez drove in two runs and Luis Cruz provided a pair of hits for the Dodgers, who got 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball out of losing starter Aaron Harang.

"We have to take each game at a time. ... We can't start thinking too far ahead of ourselves," Harang said.

Josh Beckett makes his fourth start for the Dodgers since joining the club via trade with the Boston Red Sox. Beckett is just 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his first three appearances with Los Angeles and was roughed up for four runs and seven hits over 6 1/3 innings of a 5-2 loss at San Francisco last Friday.

Beckett is only 1-6 in his past seven decisions and needs to get his act together if he intends on helping the club. The right-hander has faced St. Louis six times in his career, going 2-2 with a 5.11 earned run average.

Los Angeles has won four of seven meetings with the Cardinals this season.