ST. LOUIS — The Dodgers were happy to have rookie sensation Yasiel Puig back in the lineup Monday night, more so when he doubled and scored as part of a two-run rally in the fourth inning.
But starting pitcher Zack Greinke, utility infielder Nick Punto and reliever Paco Rodriguez also played key roles as the surging Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2, to extend their franchise-record road winning streak to 15 games.
Greinke (9-3) earned his 100th victory and singled in what would be the game-winning run as the Dodgers increased their lead in the National League West to six games over the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were idle.
“I don’t know if there’s any reason for the [road] streak, but it’s kind of cool,” said Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ scheduled starting pitcher Tuesday in the second game of the four-game series at Busch Stadium.
“We’re really confident coming to the yard every day,” he said.
The Dodgers agreed that a key moment in the game came in the fifth inning, when the Dodgers led, 2-1. The Cardinals’ David Freese hit a two-out double to right field and Allen Craig tried to score from first base.
Puig fielded Freese’s ball as it bounced off the fence and fired toward the infield. Punto, playing shortstop for the injured Hanley Ramirez, took the throw and gunned the ball to catcher A.J. Ellis, who tagged out Craig, deflating the mostly red-clad crowd of 42,464.
“I didn’t think there was any chance” to get Craig because, with two out, Craig was immediately running on anything hit, Ellis said. “Nick Punto knew exactly where that ball was going to be. A great relay by Nick.”
Then in the seventh inning, Punto doubled to left field and scored on Greinke’s single against starter Adam Wainwright (13-7). Greinke leads all big league pitchers with a .405 batting average (15 for 37).
Punto said that with Puig, “he’s just going to pick the ball up and throw it as far and as hard as he can, and fortunately for us I was right in the right position.”
“Everything’s going right,” Punto said. “We’re pitching outstanding, we’re getting enough timely hits, we’re winning one-run ballgames.”
Greinke gave up two runs and eight hits in 61/3 innings. Rodriguez earned his second save by holding off St. Louis in the last two innings.
In the fourth inning, Adrian Gonzalez walked and Puig doubled, with the 31-year-old Gonzalez stopping at third base. Gonzalez scored on Andre Ethier’s single and Puig scored when Ellis grounded into a force play.
It appeared Puig and Gonzalez yelled something at each other while they were on the bases, and later in the dugout it appeared they might be having some sort of an argument. But Gonzalez said there was no dispute or animosity between the two.