Dodgers knock off Cards to get first road sweep

ST. LOUIS -- For the second straight day, the Los Angeles Dodgers leaned on a big inning. For the second straight day, the St. Louis Cardinals found themselves hopelessly behind.

Juan Rivera homered and knocked in three runs and the Dodgers scored an early knockout with a six-run third, completing their first road sweep of the season with a 9-4 victory on Wednesday. The Cardinals have been swept twice at home and Rivera homered in both, helping the Blue Jays take a three-game set from June 24-26 before the Dodgers traded for him in July.

"We're putting up a lot of runs lately and we're not stopping," James Loney said. "We've had some big innings and we're coming back and putting up some more."

The Cardinals were outscored 24-7 in the Dodgers' first three-game sweep in St. Louis since Aug. 20-22, 1993, and have dropped seven of nine overall. They failed to take advantage of a rare loss by NL Central-leading Milwaukee, remaining 10 games back with 32 to go.

"Especially when you get swept at home, that's as bad as it can get," manager Tony La Russa said. "The last two games, we've been out of it."

Hiroki Kuroda (10-14) worked seven solid innings in 98-degree heat with a huge cushion and A.J. Ellis hit his first career homer off of Jaime Garcia (10-7) to give the Dodgers a two-day total of six long balls. Matt Kemp had two singles and two RBIs, his fourth multihit effort in five games, and Loney had three hits with a pair of doubles and an RBI.

"We've swung the bats good the last couple of days, but you look at the long haul and we really haven't been able to sustain that," manager Don Mattingly said.

Despite a 2.92 ERA, Kuroda needed 26 starts to get to double figures in victories. The Dodgers have totaled 24 runs his last three outings, all victories, but in 12 of his starts have scored two or fewer runs.

"I had a good rhythm from the beginning of the game, especially throwing that first-pitch breaking ball," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "Having the run support makes a lot of difference.

"I was able to try out a lot of different patterns, unlike many other games I've had during the season."

The Cardinals trailed 6-0 before Garcia got his first at-bat leading off the third and a day earlier it was 7-0 before Kyle Lohse struck out for the final out of the second.

La Russa said he wouldn't do anything like asking veterans to hold a meeting, saying it would shift blame from the coaching staff to players.

"We're all in this thing together, we talk all the time, and we'll get it fixed together," La Russa said. "Whether I talk or don't talk or some talk, whatever."

St. Louis was 1½ games behind the Brewers after acquiring Edwin Jackson and Rafael Furcal at the trade deadline, but is 10-13 since while the Brewers have gone 24-5. Gerald Laird hit his first National League homer, a two-run drive in the seventh and Skip Schumaker had four hits and an RBI for St. Louis.

Eight straight Dodgers reached safely to start a six-run third that matched their season best and put them up 6-1. The rally was kicked off by a pair of walks followed by six straight hits that produced at least one RBI.

Garcia said he should have taken more time between pitches. Instead, the lefty rushed it a bit.

"When stuff like that happens, you've got to step off and think about the pitch you're going to make," Garcia said. "Just relax for a little bit and try to limit the damage.

"I'm not going to lie, sometimes I don't do a very good job. But I'm trying."

Garcia, who had been 6-3 with a 2.06 ERA at home, finally recorded his first out of the inning on Kuroda's sacrifice and gave up seven runs in five innings. He's 0-3 in his last six starts and has lasted just five innings four of the last five outings.

Kuroda has won four of his last five starts and is 3-2 with a 2.11 ERA in six day starts. The right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and a walk.

The Dodgers finished 4-3 against the Cardinals for their first series win since 2003 and took the lead in the series at 1,002-1,001.

Schumaker had five straight hits, all singles, after pitching the ninth in a 13-2 shellacking Tuesday night.

Game notes
The Dodgers are off Thursday, then play 24 straight days beginning with a six-game homestand against the Rockies and Padres. Ted Lilly (7-13, 4.58) opposes Colorado's Esmil Rogers (6-2, 6.00) on Friday night. ... Edwin Jackson (9-9, 4.03) faces Charlie Morton (9-6, 3.42) as the Cardinals open a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night. ... Rod Barajas' 11th multihomer game Tuesday was the Dodgers' first by a catcher since Russell Martin on Aug. 15, 2007 against the Astros. ... Kuroda has eight consecutive quality starts, longest for the Dodgers since Randy Wolf also had eight in a row Aug. 11-Sept. 26, 2009.