Baseball is the cruelest game. Just ask Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, who homered in the second inning Thursday and then made an error in the 9th that eventually allowed the Dodgers to win, 3-2. And ask Cards pitcher Adam Wainwright, who gave up only three hits and struck out seven Dodgers over eight innings–only to watch his team give away the game on two unearned runs.

Wainwright, a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, didn't really overpower the Dodgers, but he made great pitches and kept the Dodgers off-balance all afternoon. The hardest hit ball off him came in the 4th inning when Andre Ethier blasted a home run to center field.

Cards manager Tony LaRussa went to his bullpen in the 9th inning and for a moment it looked like he made the right move. Trevor Miller got Ethier to pop up and Ryan Franklin got Manny Ramirez (didn't he used to be somebody?) to fly out. But then Holliday misplayed James Loney's line drive for a two-base error. After Casey Blake walked, Ronnie Belliard (mama, there's that man again) knocked in pinch runner Juan Pierre with the tying run. And after Russell Martin walked, Mark Loretta came up to pinch hit. 

Did I mention that baseball is the cruelest game? Just ask Ryan Franklin. Loretta had been 0-for-15 against him. Oh-for-fif-freakin'-teen. And then Loretta proceeds to single in the winning run.

As for the Dodgers, 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw kept them in the game, scattering nine hits and giving up two earned runs over 6.2 innings. The bullpen did the rest, with Boss Hogg getting out the heart of the Cards' order in the 8th inning and George Sherrill pitching a scoreless ninth.

And for the second consecutive game, the Dodgers were lucky. They were outhit Thursday 10-5. Since homering in his first at-bat Wednesday, Matt Kemp is 0-for-8. He ended the 8th inning Thursday by grounding out with the bases loaded. Manny is 1-for-8 in the series, Loney is 2-for-8.

But the Dodgers have accomplished the crucial task of keeping the home field advantage in a short series. So, it's on to St. Louis for game 3, Saturday at 3 p.m. (PST). The Dodgers will send out Vicente Padilla against Joel Pineiro. That's right, journeyman Padilla–a late-season pickup–gets the nod over one-time ace Chad Billingsley. Padilla has a reputation as a bit of a head case, but he's been pretty solid since coming to the Dodgers.

If the Cards win Saturday, LaRussa may come back with Chris Carpenter on three days rest for Sunday's game 4. If the Cards lose Saturday, they'd better close off access to the top of the Gateway Arch.


–George Lopez threw out the first pitch, wearing a Dodgers jersey with LOPEZUELA stitched on the back. (Does Fernando Valenzuela get a piece of that merchandising?) TBS then proceeded to bombard viewers with promos for Lopez's upcoming talk show on the cable network. One promo even featured Lopez goofing around with President Barack Obama! WTF?!?! You think the Republicans were apoplectic over Obama leaving DC during the health care debate to support Chicago's Olympic bid? Wait 'til they catch this bit of nonsense. Uh, Mr. President, I'm all for having a hip, pop culture-savvy brother in the White House, but this is a bit much. What's next? Shilling for “American Idol” or “So You Think You Can Dance?”

–Listening to the Dodgers' radio broadcast while watching the game on TBS doesn't work because the network uses a delay that puts the video just behind the audio. Worse yet, the delay isn't long enough to accommodate cheating on bets (a la “The Sting”).

–Thanks to my former Daily News colleague (and longtime baseball maven) Kevin Modesti for the great headline.

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