LOS ANGELES (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals didn't exactly sting the ball against Clayton Kershaw. They just went to the plate with the purpose of putting it in play.
The plan worked.
Matt Carpenter drove in the go-ahead run with an infield single and Pete Kozma hit a three-run double, leading the Cardinals to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in the rubber game of their series.
"Kershaw's a great pitcher. But he's going to come out and throw strikes, so you need to be ready to swing the bats," Kozma said. "We needed every run we got."
"When you face someone like Kershaw, he's not going to give you anything. You have to scratch and claw for everything you get and that's what we did," manager Mike Matheny said. "The timely hits — some of them weren't all that pretty. But these guys came in here today talking about fighting, and that's exactly what they did."
Kozma led off the seventh with a bloop double off the glove of shortstop Dee Gordon as he dived for the ball in short center field. One out later, Carpenter grounded a single off the glove of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, allowing Kozma to score. Pinch-hitter Matt Adams added an RBI single in the ninth.
"They found some holes today and got a lot of hits that fell in there. But that's the mark of a good team," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "That's a good professional hitting team over there that battles and grinds."
Seth Maness (4-1) got credit for the victory in relief of starter Shelby Miller despite retiring only two of the six batters he faced. Kershaw had a chance to help himself with the bat in the sixth, but grounded into an inning-ending double play against Maness.
Edward Mujica pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 14th save in 14 attempts, as the Cardinals improved the major league's best record to 32-17 and increased their NL Central lead over Cincinnati to 1 1/2 games.
Kershaw (5-3) gave up four runs, seven hits and three walks in seven innings and struck out five as his ERA rose from a major league-best 1.35 to 1.68. The 2010 Cy Young Award winner had allowed only three earned runs in 39 2-3 innings over his previous five starts, including two no-decisions.
Kershaw had not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his previous 22 starts since giving up eight over 5 2-3 innings against the Cardinals on July 24, 2012, at St. Louis. That was the longest such streak by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser's 27-game stretch between July 12, 1985 and May 25, 1986.
"This start is better than going five innings and giving up three," Kershaw said. "Going deeper into the game is obviously important, especially for our bullpen. You're not going to be able to just go out there and throw up zeros or one run every time. You've got to battle sometimes."
Slumping center fielder Matt Kemp was not in the Dodgers' starting lineup, a day after he was removed by manager Don Mattingly in a double-switch with the team ahead by a run in the seventh inning of a 5-3 win. The two-time All-Star pinch hit for reliever Ronald Belisario in the eighth with a man on and grounded into an inning-ending double play.