Cards Take Third Game of Series

Despite a 6-5 loss, there is do doubt in anyone's mind -- including the Cardinals -- that the Dodgers can play with them. Los Angeles took the first two games of the series, after being swept in St. Louis, but tagged the Cards with their first losing road trip of the season by taking a 7-6 and a 6-5 decision in first two games of the final regular season meeting between the two league-leaders.

Larry Walker was not just a thorn in their side but a stake in the Dodgers heart Sunday as he went 4-for-5 with two homers and three RBI. The Cardinals increased their NL Central lead over Chicago to 17 games and reduced their magic number to five for clinching the division.

The loss cut the Dodgers lead the NL West to five games over San Francisco, after the Giants topped the Diamondbacks 5-2. The Dodgers magic number remained 15.

Walker, the second batter Hideo Nomo faced in his 300th major league game, homered to left-center. The Cardinals made it 2-0 in the third when Walker doubled and scored on a line-drive single off Adrian Beltré's glove.

The Dodgers tied the game 2-2 in the bottom half of the inning on Jayson Werth's 13th homer after a one-out walk to Izturis.

The Cardinals batted around in the fourth, scoring four runs, knocking Nomo out and snapping a 2-2 tie with a pair of RBI singles a two-run homer by Walker.

Hideo Nomo allowed six runs and nine hits in 3.2 innings in his third start after missing two months because of inflammation in his rotator cuff.

The Dodgers battled back to erase the 6-2 deficit with four runs in the fifth after loading the bases on singles by Tom Wilson, Cesar Izturis and Jayson Werth with none out. Steve Finley lined a two-run single to center and Werth scored when Jim Edmonds misplayed the ball for his fourth error of the season.

Poised to take the lead, Beltré lined to left, Shawn Green tied it with an RBI groundout and Bradley bounced out to second.

The Dodger bullpen --Scott Stewart, Edwin Jackson, Duaner Sanchez and Yhency Brazoban -- allowed only a single run over the final 5.1 innings but St. Louis got a leadoff walk, a single and scored on a double-play grounder in the sixth off Jackson (2-1), making his first relief appearance this season and second in the big leagues, to take a 7-6 lead.

Another sellout crowd helped the Dodgers' push their home attendance over 3 million for a record 19th time, and ninth year in succession. The last time they drew 3 million and finished in first place was 1985, when they lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS on Jack Clark's Game 6 home run off Tom Niedenfuer.

Los Angeles hosts San Diego for four games Monday through Thursday while the Giants battle the Colorado Rockies.