ST. LOUIS -- Unfamiliarity was no obstacle for the Dodgers on Sunday as they ambushed a pitcher making his Major League debut en route to a 9-6 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The win, highlighted by Adrian Gonzalez's fifth career grand slam, sealed a series victory for Los Angeles, which now returns home following a 5-4 road trip. The Dodgers have pulled to within three games of the Giants in the National League West standings.
The Dodgers scored a half-dozen runs off Cardinals callup Mike Mayers before the Cardinals ever came to bat. The first four trotted home when Gonzalez tattooed a 2-2 fastball 427 feet over the center-field wall. Gonzalez finished the game with three hits, the second of which preceded Howie Kendrick's home run with one out in the second.
"We've done a good job of setting the table," Kendrick said. "All the guys at the top of the lineup are getting on base. [Corey] Seager is back and he has been swinging a hot bat, too. You saw Adrian set up there and it kind of set the tone right away."
That blast marked the end of the day for Mayers, who had been summoned for the spot start after the Cardinals' rotation order was interrupted by a doubleheader earlier in the team's homestand. Mayers, who had a 2.62 ERA in 18 Minor League starts this year, allowed nine runs before being pulled with one out in the second. It was the shortest start by a Cardinals pitcher making his MLB debut since Memo Luna in 1954.
"It's the same game: 60 feet, six inches," Mayers said. "I felt like I told myself that over and over. But as far as when you get out there, it's a totally different ballgame. I felt like I kind of started to let my emotions kind of get to me. The game sped up after those first two hits. That's a situation that I have to get a lot better at."
Behind Mayers, the Cardinals' bullpen, still recovering from Friday's 16-inning game, covered 7 2/3 scoreless innings. In the meantime, Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir, who surrendered an RBI double to Matt Holliday and two-run homer to Tommy Pham, closed his five-inning start by retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. Kazmir (9-3) remains unbeaten in his last 13 starts and on the road this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A grand welcome: Gonzalez hit his grand slam off Mayers after the first three batters of the game reached. Gonzalez has reached safely in 17 of 19 games in July. Six of his nine home runs and 33 of his 50 RBIs have come on the road, and Sunday marked the first time Gonzalez homered in back-to-back games since Aug. 14-15, 2015.
"I think a little bit there has been some intent to beat the shift and play the cat and mouse game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think right now he has resolved to slug a little bit more."
A forgettable first: It took Mayers 45 pitches to get through the first inning after he failed to retire any of the first five batters faced. After serving up Gonzalez's grand slam, Mayers allowed a two-out RBI single to Kazmir that pushed the Dodgers' lead to 6-0. Mayers' six runs allowed in the first inning were the most by a Cardinals pitcher since Bob Vines gave up seven in a Sept. 3, 1924, loss to the Pirates.
"It just kind of snowballed, and the next thing you know it's a grand slam," Mayers said. "And it was like, 'Wait a second? This wasn't how it was supposed to work out.'" More »
Hittin' Howie: Kendrick's two-run home run extended his hitting streak to 16 games. He has reached safely in 32 of his last 35 games and 10 of his last 12 at Busch Stadium.
"I'm not really worried about whether I'm locked in or not, as long as we've been winning games," Kendrick said.
"I think it absolutely needs to be talked about that this team didn't quit," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Down six and then you see nine, there are a lot of teams that just roll over. Guys kept playing to the point where they had to bring their closer into the game and made them nervous more than once."
"In the moment, I knew we were short down there and needed to get some innings. I just took it one out at a time, and luckily I was able to get a couple in the belt and take a little off the bullpen. Some guys are going to have to step up at certain points in the year, and luckily I was able to do it tonight." -- Seth Maness, who came to the rescue with 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief behind Mayers
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Diaz had his on-base streak halted at 26 games with an 0-for-3 night. The streak was the longest by a rookie in the Majors this season and the longest by a Cardinals rookie since Albert Pujols had streaks of 30 and 48 games in 2001.
WHAT'S NEXT Dodgers: The Dodgers have an off-day Monday before welcoming the Rays to Los Angeles on Tuesday for a two-game set. Bud Norris will take the hill on short rest for the Dodgers after he pitched 1 1/3 innings Friday and gave up a walk-off home run to Matt Adams in the 16th inning. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will kick off a 10-game, 11-day road trip on Monday with a 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Mets at Citi Field. The series opens with the Mets owning a half-game advantage over the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card standings. Carlos Martinez, who has a 2.84 ERA this month, will start opposite New York's Noah Syndergaard.