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STL@LAD: Kemp's single plates the Dodgers' first run

LOS ANGELES -- Three Dodgers hitters complained about called third strikes, their starting pitcher complained about the first balk he's received in an 11-year career and even Don Mattingly had a few words for an umpire between innings.

But by the time reporters had arrived in his office afterward on Friday, Mattingly remembered what he had been preaching to his players all spring about mental toughness and figured an 11-2 blowout loss to the Cardinals on Jackie Robinson Night was no time for spin.

"You know, to be honest with you, I'd love to sit here and it'd probably make me feel a lot better to say we got hammered back there [behind the plate]," said Mattingly. "But at this point, it's not going to do us any good. At this point, the game's over. I've asked our guys not to make excuses as far as the kind of situation that goes on with the umpires. I know a lot of guys not liking the calls, but at that point, there's nothing you can do about it."

So with that, the Dodgers were left to deal with the cold realities, starting with a four-game losing streak. Then there was the debut of fifth starter Jon Garland, eager to return from a strained oblique muscle, and maybe a little too eager.

The Cardinals launched four homers, two of them by Lance Berkman off Garland and two more by Albert Pujols off Dodgers relievers. The 19 St. Louis hits were the most for a Dodgers opponent since July 21, 2008.

"This is his first start of the season, so he was a little rusty with location, but he is really a quality pitcher and has given us a lot of trouble," said Berkman.

Garland, who had only one Minor League rehab start of 4 2/3 innings on Sunday, was battered for five runs on nine hits in four-plus innings and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch.

"He wasn't as sharp as we'd like," Mattingly said. "He was fine [physically]. He came out of that, obviously, he had a bit of a bruised ego when you don't pitch the way you want to."

Garland also was charged with that balk, the first in more than 2,000 Major League innings, called by second-base umpire Angel Hernandez in a three-run second inning that set the tone for both clubs.

Lance Berkman hit the first of his two homers leading off the inning for the Cardinals. With one out and David Freese and Yadier Molina (who had four hits) on the corners after singles, Skip Schumaker hit a soft liner that second baseman Juan Uribe short-hopped and flipped to shortstop Jamey Carroll at second base for one out.

Uribe motioned to Carroll to look the runner back at third, at which point Carroll double-clutched getting the ball out of his glove and threw late to first base, where Schumaker was safe.

"He had trouble with the ball," said Mattingly. "It was a double-play chance, a weird play, but if we get two, we have a chance to get out of the inning."

With winning pitcher Kyle Lohse batting and runners still at the corners, Garland was called for the balk, allowing Freese to score and Molina to take second. Garland walked toward Hernandez, who pivoted at the waist to show Garland that his shoulder had moved forward when he turned to look at Molina at first base. Garland continued the argument until Uribe finally walked his pitcher back toward the mound.

"I haven't been called for a balk my whole career and I still haven't balked," said Garland. "Maybe he blinked and then looked at me. I look that way every time I have a man on base. He said I started forward. When I start, I go back. Until I'm set, I can do that, to my knowledge. I've been doing it my whole career."

After Lohse grounded out, former Dodgers infielder Ryan Theriot singled home Schumaker for the third run. Between innings, Mattingly spoke briefly with plate umpire Chad Fairchild, who told Mattingly he didn't see the balk, but that didn't mean it wasn't one. Had Mattingly argued the balk, he could have been ejected immediately.

Fairchild would become a focal point for the Dodgers soon enough. In a four-batter span in the fifth and sixth innings, Fairchild called third strikes on Casey Blake, Matt Kemp and James Loney. Each time the player complained to Fairchild, and each time replays showed the pitches were well off the plate to the first-base side.

But Fairchild kept giving that pitch and Lohse kept taking it, racking up six strikeouts, five on called third strikes.

The Cardinals didn't let the umpire get to them. They just hit pitches over the fence. The Dodgers have hit just eight home runs this year. Their pitchers have allowed 21, most in the National League.

Moments after Garland was removed after the second of three doubles by Colby Rasmus, Pujols welcomed reliever Kenley Jansen to his home-run club with a two-run shot as the Dodgers losing streak reached four. Pujols also homered off former Cardinals teammate Blake Hawksworth.

St. Louis turned the game into a rout with a four-run ninth inning off Lance Cormier. Comments