Dodgers take early lead, hold off Cardinals

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday hits the wall in an attempt to catch the home run by Luis Cruz of the Dodgers in Monday night’s game at Busch Stadium.

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday hits the wall in an attempt to catch the home run by Luis Cruz of the Dodgers in Monday night’s game at Busch Stadium. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Chad Billingsley returned from the disabled list with a strong outing that ended a five-start losing streak and Luis Cruz hit a three-run homer as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 Monday night in 101-degree heat for their fifth straight victory.

Cruz, recalled July 2 to replaced injured shortstop Dee Gordon, has two career homers and 12 RBI. Eight of his 14 hits are for extra bases. His three-run shot in the second barely cleared the left-field wall — the ball conked left fielder Matt Holliday on the rebound — to give the Dodgers the early jump in their eighth straight win over St. Louis dating to April 17, 2011.

Kenley Jansen struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 19th save in 24 chances. The Dodgers also won eight in a row against St. Louis from 1975-76, their best streak in the series since moving to Los Angeles.

Carlos Beltran homered for the second straight game with a two-run shot in the eighth for the Cardinals, hitting his 22nd of the year off Ronald Belisario. But St. Louis was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, failing to build on a three-game sweep of the Cubs in which it outscored Chicago 23-1.

Mark Ellis added a two-run double in the seventh off Victor Marte, the third reliever the Cardinals used in the inning in an effort to keep it close. Tony Gwynn Jr. contributed a pinch-hit single and scored, making him 8-for-16 with five RBI in that role.

Rookie starter Joe Kelly (1-3) allowed two earned runs on four hits in six innings, and had a tougher day from a physical standpoint. He contributed to Ellis’ double-play ball the second at-bat of the game by deflecting a high chopper with his pitching hand, prompting a visit from team trainers and a brief delay to make sure he could still pitch.

Kelly got a second visit from the trainer after beating out an infield hit in the fifth, then stumbling over the bag and sprawling to the ground. Earlier in the at-bat, Kelly barely missed a homer on a ball replays indicated was less than a foot outside the foul pole in left.

Billingsley (5-9) allowed a run and four hits in six innings to win for the first time since June 10 at Seattle and end a skid that matched his career worst. In the five starts he made prior to going on the DL, the right-hander had a 6.21 ERA while allowing 41 hits in 29 innings.

The Dodgers trailed for the first time in four games during a 10-game trip after Jon Jay doubled for his fifth consecutive hit with one out in the first and scored on Lance Berkman’s two-out single. Jay also singled to start the eighth and scored on Beltran’s homer.

Notes: Cardinals 3B David Freese, who is 0-for-6 with six strikeouts against Billingsley, was not in the lineup. ... The Dodgers have 14 homers in the last 18 games. ... Kelly has two hits, both infield singles. He worked Billingsley for a 10-pitch at-bat but grounded out in the second.

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