Vargas Hits 1St Homer, Dodgers Bounce Back To Beat Cards 6-2

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Raul Romero Jr.)
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Raul Romero Jr.)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Miguel Vargas was already excited after hitting his first major league home run Saturday night. Then the Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman got another big thrill when he was congratulated by Albert Pujols.

The veteran St. Louis slugger gave his regards to the rookie after getting aboard with a base hit during the fifth inning of the Dodgers' 6-2 victory over the Cardinals.

“I didn't know what to say. He's like an icon for Latin guys,” Vargas said. “I'm just trying to look at him like, `wow, I got Albert Pujols on my side’ and I got super excited for it."

On the night after Pujols became the fourth player to reach 700 career home runs, the NL West champion Dodgers used the long ball to snap out of a slump in which they had dropped three of four — including an 11-0 blowout by the Cardinals on Friday.

Will Smith and Trayce Thompson also went deep for Los Angeles, which provided plenty of support for Clayton Kershaw to win his third straight start.

“Will got us on the board and then after that Clayton took it and ran and I thought threw the baseball well,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Pujols went 1 for 4 and Nolan Arenado homered for the Cardinals, but their NL Central lead dropped to 6 1/2 games over Milwaukee.

Vargas started at first base after major league batting leader Freddie Freeman was scratched from the lineup due to illness. With Austin Barnes aboard in the second, Vargas hit a 93.5 mph fastball from Jordan Montgomery (8-6) into the center-field stands to make it 4-0.

The 22-year-old Vargas — the Dodgers' minor league player of the year in 2021 — couldn't stifle a wide grin as he rounded first base.

“I wasn't looking at the ball. I just ran the bases and saw the crowd going wild,” Vargas said. “There was a lot of emotion. I was trying to enjoy the moment.”

Kershaw (10-3) struck out seven in six innings and allowed two runs on six hits. The left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts since coming off the injured list. He was sidelined nearly a month due to lower back pain.

“I gave up a lot of hits tonight, which I’m not happy about. And obviously the home run, which wasn’t great, but overall, it was OK,” Kershaw said. “Guys put up some runs early, which is huge for us, and we were able to get back in the win column.”

Smith got the Dodgers on the board in the first with a two-out solo shot to center. Thompson made it 2-0 in the second with a drive over the center-field wall.

Cody Bellinger laced an RBI double to left-center in the fourth inning and scored on a single by Mookie Betts.

ARENADO'S MILESTONE

Arenado's two-run drive to the left-field corner in the sixth gave him 30 home runs and 100 RBIs on the season. It is the seventh time since 2015 he has reached both marks.

Only three players — José Abreu, J.D. Martinez and Edwin Encarnación — have even four seasons of 30-100 over the same span.

DEEP TRACKS

Montgomery allowed a season-high three home runs and has served up six in his last five starts. The left-hander, acquired from the Yankees at the Aug. 2 trade deadline, went four innings and gave up six runs on seven hits.

“Overall, I thought his stuff was actually pretty good. They just beat him. They took some really good swings, got to the fastball and had a good approach,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Dodgers: RHP Dustin May was placed on the injured list due to low back tightness. He was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts after coming back from Tommy John surgery. RHP Andre Jackson was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take May's spot. ... RHP Tony Gonsolin (right forearm strain) will pitch two innings at Oklahoma City on Tuesday and could be activated off the IL after that.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (11-10, 3.38 ERA) is 7-5 in 18 career appearances against the Dodgers but only 1-3 at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers: RHP Michael Grove (0-0, 4.66 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season.

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