LOS ANGELES -- Scott Kazmir was one out away from his first complete game in three years when Jeremy Hazelbaker's two-run homer ruined the narrative, but the lefty's seven-strikeout gem on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium was enough to give the Dodgers a 5-3 win and a shot at a series sweep of the Cardinals.
Kazmir, who had allowed only one unearned run on three hits entering the ninth, got his run support on solo shots from Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager and a three-run fifth-inning rally that took 40 pitches out of Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and forced St. Louis to call for the bullpen in the sixth.
"Today, we were good, situationally," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "We hit some balls out of the ballpark, and Martinez, that was some of the best stuff we've seen all year. He hit, what, 101 and 100 [mph] a couple of pitches? So for us to work through those at-bats, put balls in play, not really punch, it was a collective effort."
Martinez, making his return from a respiratory ailment that forced him to take a few extra days of rest, was working on a shutout when Gonzalez's fourth homer of the season gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the fourth. The Cardinals right-hander finished with four runs allowed on five hits and three walks, striking out two.
"I thought his stuff was good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Martinez. "Just that fifth inning, things got rolling and we couldn't get it stopped. Usually when you get yourself in a spot where it's bases loaded and nobody out, you're going to find yourself in a predicament. I thought his stuff was better than what the line looked like."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kazmir misses out on CG: Kazmir was at 102 pitches through eight innings, but Roberts let him go after the complete game. The veteran lefty got two outs but labored to the point where he was one pitch shy of his career high of 121 (July 2005) after Hazelbaker's home run ended his night.
"Felt like I got punched in the gut right there, but that's the way the baseball gods are right now," Kazmir said. "Just got to keep on going." More >
Patience pays off for Gonzalez: Gonzalez's homer put L.A. on the board, but his skill as a hitter truly shined one inning later. The veteran locked into a 12-pitch at-bat with Martinez, fouling off multiple 100-mph fastballs, before knocking an RBI groundout to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.
Stolen signs? Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was irritated in the fifth inning when he was not granted time by home-plate umpire Adam Hamari while Martinez battled against Seager with the bases loaded. The reason? Molina suspected that Kazmir, who was standing on second, was relaying the signs to Seager. Hamari did not grant the request, and Martinez went on to throw a changeup, which Seager lined for an RBI single. Martinez said afterward that the unsuccessful stoppage of play caused him to "lose some concentration."
Gift wrapped: A night after committing four errors in the field, the Cardinals took advantage of one by the Dodgers to briefly tie the game with a one-run fifth. A two-base throwing error by Seager, who made two blunders at shortstop, put Jedd Gyorko aboard with one out. A wild pitch by Kazmir then moved Gyorko to third, where he was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Martinez.
Decent debut: Cardinals reliever Dean Kiekhefer struck out four of the first five batters he faced in his Major League debut. Kiekhefer, who was recalled on Friday, took over for Martinez in the sixth. The only thing to mar the lefty's first big league action was a Seager solo homer, which kept Kiekhefer from being able to finish a second inning of clean relief.
"It was awesome, just running out and getting into a big league game," Kiekhefer said. "Now I can officially say I'm a big leaguer."
"[Aledmys] Diaz over there, from what I hear and see, he's sure-handed, and obviously our guy [Seager] has been sure-handed, so it's kind of fluky." -- Roberts, on the six errors committed by the clubs' rookie shortstops this series
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The Cardinals continue to be befuddled by opponents with winning records. With Saturday's loss, they fell to 4-14 against teams above .500. Those struggles are in large part due to the offense averaging 3.22 runs per game against winning teams and 7.84 runs per game against clubs with losing records. In those games, the Cardinals are 15-4. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The Cardinals will close out their six-day visit to Southern California with a 7:05 p.m. CT game against the Dodgers on Sunday. Mike Leake will look to build off Tuesday's eight-inning start, which netted Leake his first win with St. Louis.
Dodgers:Alex Wood will take the mound in Sunday's series finale, with first pitch scheduled for 5:05 p.m. PT. The southpaw has seen a massive spike in strikeouts since making a mechanical tweak in late April, registering 25 punchouts across his last three starts.