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Dodgers Hang On for Sweep of Cardinals

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The final game of the series between the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals looked to be a breeze for the Dodgers. But despite a comeback by the Cardinals in the fourth inning that made for some anxious innings, the Dodgers persevered for the series sweep with a 4-3 victory.

Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright, after pitching a complete-game two-hit shutout in his last start against the Milwaukee Brewers, clearly didn’t have his good stuff in the early innings falling behind the count to Dodgers’ hitters. As a result it took him 70 pitches to get out of the first three innings.

“That’s not something you do on a regular basis,” manager Joe Torre commented on jumping on Wainwright early.

The Dodgers opened up with a two-run first inning despite having the opportunity to do more damage. After Matt Kemp had a one-out walk he attempted to steal second during Andre Ethier’s at-bat however was thrown out by a country mile. It was unfortunate since Ethier hit a long flyball double to center field.

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Manny Ramirez came to the rescue belting a homer to center field on a sinkerball that didn’t quite sink over the middle of the plate - the 551st in his career.

In the third inning, Manny led off with a walk and James Loney hit a single that sent Manny to second. Surprising everyone, Casey Blake took the initiative and laid down a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch from Wainwright sending Manny to third and Loney to second.

“Casey Blake did that on his own,” Torre said.

Blake DeWitt cashed them both in on a two-RBI single for the 4-0 lead.

Clayton Kershaw on the other hand was on point to start off the game. Albert Pujols, who walked in the first inning, was the only base runner Kershaw gave up in the first three innings. In fact Kershaw struck out the side in order in the third inning.

“He’s a competitor,” Torre said. “He just goes after you. In fact when I told him after the seventh inning that that’s it he said, ‘Are you sure?’”

But some stray pitches by Kershaw in the fourth inning were capitalized on by the Cardinals.

A lead-off single by Aaron Miles seemed innocuous at the time. The Pujols pop up to DeWitt further calmed the situation. Even a walk to Matt Holliday didn’t seem to be too problematic.

A hanging slider right over the heart of the plate to Ryan Ludwick dashed it all as he took it out to left field to cut the lead to 4-3.

“He certainly paid the price for that,” Torre said of Kershaw’s hanging slider.

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“I’d like to have that back obviously,” Kershaw said. “[Ludwick] did what he was supposed to with a hanging breaking ball.”

After that Wainwright settled down making 43 pitches in his remaining three innings, and Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs to keep the Cardinals within striking distance.

However Kershaw recovered after that fourth inning and went on to strike out a season-high ten batters.

“I felt good tonight,” Kershaw said. “I thought I pitched all right. Any time you get four runs off of Wainwright, you’ve got to make that hold up.”

Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless stress-free eighth inning to set the table for closer Jonathan Broxton.

In an encore from Tuesday night’s game, Broxton faced Pujols, Holliday and Ludwick, however the results were a bit more unnerving than the previous night.

Pujols led off with a single while Holliday and Ludwick made outs to the outfield. Yadier Molina, who had never recorded a hit off of Broxton, crushed the ball to right center field. With Kemp and Ethier crashing the wall, the Dodgers got lucky with the ball caroming over the wall for a ground-rule double preventing Pujols from scoring the tying run.

“That was a big break on our part,” Torre said. “I was wondering if [Kemp] was playing deep enough when Yadier came up there, but it ended up working out for us.”

“Usually if [Molina] hits the ball deep, it’s to left-center,” Kemp said. “It kind of surprised us. I’m just glad it didn’t hit my glove because Pujols would have scored and tied the game.”

Broxton got Randy Winn to ground to third for his 16th save of the season, improving Kershaw’s record to 6-3.

The sweep of the Cardinals was the first for the Dodgers since July 4-6, 1988. They are now 12 games over .500 and have the best record in the National League at 36-24.