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LAD@STL: Freese collects three hits, two RBIs in win

ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has said it almost ad nauseam this season. He knows his team's capabilities at the plate and has confidence that any lineup he writes up could out-hit its opponent in any given game.

On Thursday, the Cardinals exceeded the lofty expectation Matheny set for them, as St. Louis collected a season-high 18 hits in a 7-4 victory against the Dodgers. The Cards briefly fell behind in the series finale, but they battled back and erased a two-run deficit with ease.

"I think that's the team that those guys need to expect to be," Matheny said. "That's the kind of offensive production that I want them anticipating and expecting every time we walk out here, because that's the kind of a team I do believe we have, and I think they believe that, too. It's a lot of talk unless you throw out some production to back it."

Each spot in St. Louis' batting order collected a hit and five players had multihit games. David Freese and Matt Carpenter each had three hits, while Freese and Tony Cruz knocked in two runs each.

The win capped off a second straight series victory for the Cards as they won six out of seven games on their homestand.

"You're going to be confident, because you've got talented players," said Freese. "We're getting the timely hits, I think. I think that's key. I think we haven't used that term in a while."

The Cardinals took a two-run lead into the fifth with starter Jake Westbrook cruising. But after allowing one hit and retiring eight straight after four innings, Westbrook got into trouble, as the Dodgers collected five consecutive singles and took a 4-2 lead.

Westbrook wasn't hit very hard, as most of those hits were ground balls that were hit to the right spots. Andre Ethier's leadoff single was indicative of the kind of tough-luck inning Westbrook had. Ethier hit a potential double-play grounder up the middle that Westbrook reached out a foot for instinctively and kicked it away.

"It was frustrating, because I felt like I made some pitches and they just found the holes," Westbrook said. "I guess it's a live and die by the sinker mentality. I felt like I really only made one bad pitch. It snowballed on me quick."

Westbrook headed for the dugout, eyes fixated on the ground after the third out. But the Cardinals quickly gave Westbrook a boost to take into the sixth. St. Louis erased the two-run deficit with a four-spot of its own.

The Cards also collected five singles in the inning and chased Dodgers starter Chris Capuano from the game after 4 1/3 innings for the lefty's shortest outing of the season.

"It's not like we beat ourselves," Capuano said. "They're the World Champions for a reason. They are scrappy. They put the bat on the ball and they're not afraid to take what you give them. They did a lot of things to win this game."

With the lead back in hand, Westbrook fell into a groove. The right-hander allowed one hit over the next two innings and threw his third straight start of seven or more innings.

The outing also extended St. Louis' starters' streak of at least six innings to 21 games.

"Each guy on their day takes pride in going out there and doing their job," Westbrook said. "Our starting pitchers, our goal is to get deep into the game, give our team a chance to win."

Matheny had said before Thursday's game that he was hoping to give Mitchell Boggs a day off after Boggs had thrown an inning each in the Cards' two previous wins against the Dodgers. But with Westbrook having gone seven innings, Matheny called on his setup man to get to closer Jason Motte in the ninth.

Boggs threw a scoreless eighth inning, and Motte struck out the side in the ninth. Boggs has now made 18 straight appearances without allowing a run dating back to June 14.

"We've used [Boggs] a lot, but every time we've given him a chance he's done a good job," Matheny said. "And Jason comes in and does the same thing. We've been real fortunate in that area and hope that can continue."

"For me, it's all about going out there and executing," Boggs said. "And if I can go out there and execute and let the guys behind me do what they're capable of doing, I'll be fine."

St. Louis is 13-3 and have yet to lose a series against a National League West opponent this season. The Cardinals swept the Cubs in three games prior to the Dodgers series and will begin another three-game set with Chicago starting on Friday.

After putting a tough road trip in which they lost five of six games against NL Central opponents behind them with a successful homestand, the Cards hope to keep to continue playing like the team Matheny expects them to be.

"This kind of homestand is definitely what we feel we're capable of doing," Westbrook said. "It's just a matter of being consistent and keep doing it."

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