Cardinals collect 18 hits in 7-4 win over Dodgers

The Cardinals' Matt Holliday (7) is congratulated by Lance Berkman (right) and others after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Dodgers on Thursday in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 7-4.

The Cardinals' Matt Holliday (7) is congratulated by Lance Berkman (right) and others after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Dodgers on Thursday in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 7-4. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Somehow, the St. Louis Cardinals dropped a half-game in the standings on a 6-1 homestand. As manager Mike Matheny reminds players, if they keep this up good things have to happen.

David Freese and Matt Carpenter each had three of St. Louis’ season-high 18 hits as the Cardinals handed the Los Angeles Dodgers their second straight setback since acquiring Hanley Ramirez, 7-4 Thursday.

“It’s not like we really beat ourselves,” losing pitcher Chris Capuano said. “It’s a scrappy ballclub over there. They’re the World Champions for a reason.”

The Cardinals answered the Dodgers’ four-run fifth with four runs in the bottom half and Matt Holliday added his 17th homer in the sixth. They’re 5.5 games back in the NL Central but answered a 1-5 trip to open the second half with a combination of strong starting and offense that scored seven or more runs in four of the wins.

“You guys get tired of hearing it, but I just think this is the team we are,” Matheny said. “I think they believe that, too. It would be nice to ride it for a few months.”

Obtained a day earlier from Miami, Ramirez started at third base and batted fifth for the second straight game. He had an infield hit, two walks and a steal, and grounded into a double play. The 2009 NL batting champion is 2-for-6 with three walks an RBI with his new team but the Dodgers are 0-2 since the trade and have lost three in a row overall.

“He’s a tough out and he does a good job of putting the barrel on the bat,” Jake Westbrook said after working seven or more innings for the third straight start. “He definitely makes their lineup that much tougher, so it’s good to get a couple wins with him in there.”

Matt Holliday hit his 17th homer for St. Louis, which fell behind 4-2 by allowing four runs in the fifth and then scored four in the bottom half. Allen Craig and Tony Cruz each had two hits and an RBI.

Freese left the game with cramping in his right calf for a pinch hitter in the sixth, an inning after getting a bit of medical attention following a two-run single for the go-ahead hit. He was 11-for-20 on the homestand.

Matt Kemp had an infield hit and was 2-for-16 with seven strikeouts and no RBI in the series.

“I feel like we had a good game plan,” said Cruz, the St. Louis catcher. “Me and Yaddy (Molina) watched a lot of video and our pitchers made their pitches.”

Westbrook allowed four runs — three earned — and seven hits with six strikeouts. He responded after the Dodgers’ four-run fifth, allowing a hit and walk the last two innings.

Mitchell Boggs allowed a hit in the eighth to give him 142⁄3 consecutive scoreless innings, a season best for the team, and Jason Motte struck out the side against three pinch hitters in the ninth for his 22nd save in 26 chances.

In his last nine appearances Motte hasn’t allowed a run with seven saves, 12 strikeouts and no walks in 101⁄3 innings.

“We look really good together,” Motte said of the setup-closer tandem. “We were in each other’s weddings. We’ve got pictures and stuff together.”

Capuano (10-6) gave up six runs and 11 hits in 41⁄3 innings, dropping to 0-4 with a 7.90 ERA at 7-year-old Busch Stadium. He gave up two hits the first three innings but retired only three of his last 12 batters.

Los Angeles plans to call up a minor leaguer to start tonight in San Francisco.

Given a 2-0 lead, Westbrook had thrown 11 consecutive scoreless innings and had struck out four in a row before the Dodgers opened the fifth with four singles in five pitches, taking the lead on RBI hits by Juan Rivera and Cruz.

A third run scored on Matt Treanor’s infield hit when second baseman Daniel Descalso relayed to third after cutting off the ball, and Freese made an error with wild throw to the plate in an attempt to catch Rivera.

Capuano contributed his third RBI of the year with a sacrifice fly that made it 4-2 with two outs.

St. Louis went ahead in the bottom half on Freese’s hit and RBI singles by Craig and Luis Cruz. Holliday homered to straightaway center off Javy Guerra in the sixth.

Notes: RF Andre Ethier turned a nice double play to avoid further damage in the Cardinals’ two-run second when he caught Westbrook’s sinking liner and then threw to the plate just in time for C Matt Treanor’s tag on Matt Carpenter. ... Lance Lynn (12-4, 3.10) is 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in four career appearances against the Cubs heading into today’s start in Chicago. ... Lance Berkman missed his second straight start with a bruised right knee but could return today. ... Tyler Greene singled in the seventh for his first pinch hit in 13 at-bats this year. ... Carpenter was 3-for-5 after going just 2-for-13 the first six games of the homestand.

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