LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fernando Salas' shaky ninth inning spoiled a dramatic moment for slugger Lance Berkman.
Salas retired only one of the five batters he faced in the ninth inning, walking A.J. Ellis on four pitches with the bases loaded to force in a run and send the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night after Berkman tied it in the top half with a pinch home run with two outs.
Berkman, 3 for 31 with 10 strikeouts against Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly, was not in manager Mike Matheny's starting lineup in the opener of a series between the NL West and Central Division leaders.
"We've been trying to figure out a way to give Lance some time off, but you've got to be smart about it," rookie manager Mike Matheny said. "We've talked about Raffy (Rafael Furcal), we've talked about Carlos (Beltran), and Lance has fallen into that category, too. We've got to try to give him days when we can, and we knew a week ago that this was going to be one of them."
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Berkman batted for Shane Robinson and drove closer Kenley Jansen's 0-1 pitch into the pavilion seats in right-center for his first homer in 41 at-bats this season — ending the longest season-opening drought of his 14-year career.
The only other time Berkman homered as a pinch-hitter was on May 12, 2001, when he hit a tying three-run shot for Houston off Danny Graves in the ninth inning at Cincinnati before the Reds won in the bottom half.
"We weren't worried about Lance. I mean, Lance is going to be Lance," Cardinals starter Lance Lynn said. "Once he gets some at-bats and gets back in his groove, he's going to be just fine. Hopefully tonight started him toward that. When Lance comes off the bench and ties it up like that, you think you're right back in it."
Jansen (3-0), who struck out his first two batters trying to preserve a 5-4 lead for Lilly, ended up with the victory despite getting charged with his second blown save in five attempts.
"Kenley's fastball was really good — probably as good as I've seen it all year," Ellis said of his batterymate. "He threw a good down-and-away fastball to Berkman, and I think everybody at this point knows where Berkman likes the ball. He likes the ball elevated and out over the plate, and we hit that spot. We didn't execute what we were trying to do and he made us pay for it."
Former Cardinals second baseman Adam Kennedy had four hits, including a single during the winning rally. He made his eighth start at third base with Juan Uribe on the disabled list with an injured wrist.
"You want to win, especially on nights like that," Kennedy said. "I feel good and I feel strong. It hasn't been great up to this point for me at the plate, but I've been working in the batting cage, and it paid off a little bit tonight. But regardless of whether we're in there once a week or every day, we've have jobs to do."
Lilly was charged with four runs — all unearned — and four hits through seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The 36-year-old left-hander lowered his ERA to 1.87. One of the hits off him was a two-run homer by Matt Holliday, his third in four games and ninth overall.
"I made a mistake there to Holliday that cost me," said Lilly, who has allowed only two home runs in 45 1-3 innings over his seven starts this season. "It was a poor pitch selection. But at the same time, he did a pretty good job to be able to actually get inside the ball. It was in off the plate and he hit it really hard."
Beltran, who took over the NL home run lead from injured Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp last Sunday, was back in the starting lineup for the first time in five games and went 2 for 4 after being sidelined with a sore right knee.
"I took four days rehabbing and working to try and make it better. We were approaching this situation day by day, and every day I was making improvement — but not to the level where I could play in games. ... Right now, I feel good. I'm just hoping to wake up tomorrow feeling good to and being in the lineup again."
Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly was ejected for the second time in six games during the top of the third inning while the Cardinals were rallying from a 3-0 deficit with four runs. But the Dodgers tied it in the bottom half with an RBI single by Kennedy.
Lynn allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings, raising his ERA from 1.81 to 2.31. The right-hander made the Dodgers swing and miss on only two of his 62 pitches through the first three innings.
"I was throwing the ball well the whole game, but they put four or five good at-bats together in the second inning and it cost me three runs," Lynn said. "They've got a good lineup and their guys are doing good things. I was throwing the ball where I wanted to. They were just getting hits."
Notes: Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will join Mattingly and ex-Dodgers managers Tom Lasorda and Joe Torre on June 14 at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles to raise funds for Torre's Safe at Home Foundation, which helps victims of domestic violence. The panel discussion will include Angels manager and longtime Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia. Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will serve as master of ceremonies for the benefit, which will include a sports memorabilia auction.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.