LOS ANGELES — It took some home-cooking for the Cardinals to finally figure out how to take a lead deep into a game during their road trip through California.
And even that wasn't enough to win.
Jack Flaherty, who grew up going to Dodger Stadium and sharing a seat with his mother until he was big enough for his own, strong-armed the Cardinals past the best team in the National League for seven shutout innings. The ninth is when they came apart. Russell Martin hit a groundball single up the middle to score two runs with two outs and send the Dodgers to a 2-1 walk-off victory.
It was LA's 10th walk-off victory this season.
Martin's winner came against Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez, and it came after two strikes, two meetings on the mound, two batters reached base, and two outs. The Dodgers proved too much for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals head home 0-5 on the trip and riding a five-game losing streak.
Flaherty struck out 10 -- and then watched as the Cardinals' bullpen leaked a 1-0 game into a complete loss of a road trip.
Marcell Ozuna's solo homer was the game's lone run until the ninth.
In the ninth inning, Andrew Miller got the assignment for the first two batters. He got MVP candidate Cody Bellinger to groundout for the first out, and then he bruised Corey Seager with a 94-mph fastball to put the tying run on base. In came Carlos Martinez to face pinch-hitter Will Smith, the prospect, not the rapper. (Your parents will understand.) Smith singled to get the tying run into scoring position and the winning run on base.
After a wild pitch so wild it moved the tying run to third, Martinez gave up the winner.
The homer by Ozuna was his first since returning from the injured list. Dodgers starter Dustin May struck out seven and scattered four other hits in his 5 2/3 innings. The lanky, red-headed prospect with the Bronson Arroyo leg kick had only one perfect inning against the Cardinals, but his super-charged sinker was enough to keep the Cardinals from advancing too far against him.
The Cardinals were one-for-seven with runners in scoring position through the first nine innings. That one was a single that did not produce a run.
As an encore for one of the best starts of his career, Flaherty had his best start yet at Dodger Stadium for the Cardinals. He struck out 10 in seven superb innings, and until he had an out in the fifth inning he had allowed only one hit.
The Dodgers had no feel for Flaherty's sinker.
It started over the plate as if it was his fastball and then buckled them -- often leaving the Dodgers back knee bended as they swung awkwardly at the trapdoor pitch. Cody Bellinger had that happen to him in the fourth inning as he struck out for the second out of the inning. In the fifth inning, Flaherty struck out three Dodgers around a one-out double, and several times those Dodgers went to a knee on the slider.
The road trip cost the Cardinals first place in the division.
They also picked up Ozuna and Matt Carpenter from the injured list during the six days on the West Coast. Awaiting them at some point in the coming week will be the return of Yadier Molina.
Back at home, Flaherty looks to end Cardinals losing ways on road trip
Coming off one of the best starts of his young career, Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty returns to the biggest stage he knows — the ballpark of his youth.
A standout at a LA-area high school who once pitched a playoff game at Dodger Stadium — and provided his team's RBI, too — Flaherty will make his second career start for the Cardinals there Wednesday at high noon local time. In his debut at Dodger Stadium as a big-leaguer, Flaherty struck out 10 and allowed one run on a homer in six innings.
He spoke afterward of relishing the homecoming.
The Cardinals are just homesick.
A win Wednesday with a YouTube audience is all the Cardinals can do to avoid an empty trip to California. The Cardinals have lost four consecutive games, starting with two in Oakland and continuing with two against the Dodgers, the best team in the National League. The Cardinals started the road trip in first place in the National League Central and are now likely to end it out of the wild-card lead. An 0-5 trip would also drop them closer to .500 than they've been since snacking on Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Against the A's, the Cardinals felt they beat themselves with walks and missed chances. Against LA, the Cardinals have just been outmatched by a superior team.
The Dodgers rumbled for eight runs in a shutout Monday.
The Dodgers put on a clinic of clean baseball Tuesday for a two-run win. Each time they got a leadoff hitter on base, they scored that leadoff hitter. When the Cardinals had a deep drive to right center that appeared to tie the game, Joc Pederson ran it down in stride. The biggest threat the Cardinals had against the Dodgers came in the eighth inning when Kolten Wong led off with a single against the shift.
He is not leading off Wednesday. That question still lingers.
Here's the lineup that will back Flaherty:
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Tommy Edman, RF
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Paul DeJong, SS
6. Matt Carpenter, 3B
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Matt Wieters, C
9. Jack Flaherty, P
Check back throughout the afternoon here at C-Beat and on StlToday.com for any news, notes, anecdotes that should emerge from the ballpark.