What a game it was.
And what a long game it was.
The four-hour and 53-minute, 15-inning marathon included eight shutout innings by ace-in-the-making Clayton Kershaw. Casey Blake avoided a tag from Yadier Molina by the slimmest of margins to score the first run of the game. Manny Ramirez made a rare leaping catch at the wall to save a couple of runs but was later nailed at the plate trying to score from second.
Jonathan Broxton blew a lead in the ninth. Ramon Troncoso blew another in the 11th. James Loney noticed that Joe Thurston missed first base in the 12th, turning a would-be double off Guillermo Mota into a 1-3 putout.
What everything amounted to was a 3-2 defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals that extended the Dodgers’ season-long losing streak to four games, as the contest was decided on a line drive that Albert Pujols sent screaming over the head of center fielder Matt Kemp.
“It’s just a game somebody had to lose, unfortunately,” Manager Joe Torre said.
Saddled with the cruelest of defeats was Jeff Weaver, who experienced the highest of highs the last time he pitched on this field. The winning pitcher of the final game of the 2006 World Series gave up a leadoff triple to Brendan Ryan in the 15th but got Jason LaRue to pop up to first.
Weaver walked Julio Lugo and appeared to be on his way out of the pinch when shortstop Rafael Furcal fielded a grounder by Mark DeRosa and threw out Ryan at the plate.
Then came Pujols’ line drive that drove in Lugo.
“It one-hopped the wall,” Kemp said. “He hit it hard. Him and [Matt] Holliday, their balls are hard to judge” because they hit them so hard.
By the end of the night, the story of the night was almost a memory: the breakout performance by the 21-year-old Kershaw.
“He’s mentally tough,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He doesn’t care who he’s facing.”
The Cardinals’ lineup was one that Kershaw called one of the toughest he had ever faced. The Dodgers had scored only one run in the last two days and pitching opposite Kershaw was the most consistent pitcher of a first-place team.
But Kershaw responded.
In a performance that demonstrated why the Dodgers didn’t want to include him in a trade for Toronto ace Roy Halladay, Kershaw held the Cardinals to four hits over a career-high eight innings and lowered his earned-run average over his last nine starts to 0.79.
He walked only two and struck out seven.
When men were on base, Kershaw didn’t panic. Against Kershaw, the Cardinals were 0 for 6 with men in scoring position.
Perhaps the closest the Cardinals came to scoring off Kershaw was in the seventh inning, when Brendan Ryan drove the ball to the deep left field with two men on. Playing the foil was Ramirez, who made a leaping catch at the wall.
Thinking the ball had gone into the stands, the capacity crowd erupted. Fireworks exploded behind center field.
The celebration died when Ramirez tossed the ball into the seats behind him.
“I said to myself, ‘If he hits it over my head, I’m going to hustle over and jump,’ ” Ramirez said. “I got lucky.”
The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning when Blake scored on a single to left by James Loney, but that was all they got against Joel Pineiro.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Broxton gave up a single to Ryan Ludwick, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Colby Rasmus singled to center, tying the score at 1-1.
The stalemate was broken in the 11th inning, when Blake singled and went to third on a hit by Loney. A one-out sacrifice fly by Kemp put the Dodgers back on top, 2-1, with Blake scoring, barely, without a slide.
But Troncoso, who pitched a scoreless 10th, couldn’t hold the lead, a single by Ludwick driving in Mark DeRosa to tie the score, leaving it for Pujols to provide the margin just after midnight.
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The Dodgers have struggled against St. Louis in recent years, going 9-26 against the Cardinals since 2004:
Source: Los Angeles Times