ST. LOUIS -- Seventeen wins in 18 road games. A 34-8 overall record since June 21. A 17-3 mark since the All-Star break.
At what point is this more than a prolonged hot streak to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly?
"Call it what you want," he said, leaning back in his office chair, "but it's another win."
Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up just five hits and an unearned run in seven innings Thursday night as the Dodgers wrapped up a 7-1 road trip with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at sold-out Busch Stadium.
Ryu, a 26-year old South Korean whom the Dodgers signed in December after he won 98 games in seven years in his country's professional league, fanned seven and walked none in his 110-pitch effort. It was his fifth consecutive win, dating back to July 5, and he lowered his ERA to 2.99.
"Most of my pitches were on point," said Ryu, speaking through a translator. "My fastball wasn't quite as high in velocity as usual, but my other pitches were good, and that's how I got my innings."
After A.J. Ellis cracked a three-run homer in the top of the fifth to give Los Angeles a 4-1 lead, Ryu (11-3) retired nine of the last 10 men he faced, not allowing a runner into scoring position.
Simply put, the Dodgers have another candidate for National League Rookie of the Year to go along with outfielder Yasiel Puig.
"He was locked in from the get-go," Ellis said of Ryu. "He knows how to pitch. I think he pitches to the scoreboard as well as anyone I've seen."
Rookie Carlos Martinez, who was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to make his first major league start, matched Ryu for almost five innings until Los Angeles exhausted his gas tank.
Just before leaving the game due to cramping, Martinez (0-1) threw a 3-1 fastball down and in to Ellis with men on first and third. The Dodgers catcher was all over it, belting it 398 feet into his team's bullpen.
"I don't know if we've seen an arm like that this year," Ellis said of Martinez, who allowed seven hits and four runs over 4 2/3 innings and 98 pitches. "He had an electric arm, but we were able to run up his pitch count."
Los Angeles (64-50) extended its NL West lead over the idle Arizona Diamondbacks to 5 1/2 games, while St. Louis (66-48) dropped four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.
Los Angeles scored the game's first run in the third inning off Martinez on Adrian Gonzalez's sacrifice fly to left that plated Carl Crawford.
St. Louis evened the score in the fourth on a fluky play. With two outs and Matt Holliday at first, David Freese stroked a single to center that sent Holliday to third. Andre Ethier's throw toward second went over the head of shortstop Dee Gordon and off the bag, caroming into left field as Holliday scampered home.
The Dodgers added their last run in the eighth when pinch hitter Jerry Hairston knocked in Ellis with a two-out single to center off Michael Blazek.
While Los Angeles flew home with another series win, the Cardinals finished a 15-game stretch against the four teams they will likely join in the NL playoffs -- the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh, the Cincinnati Reds and the Dodgers -- at 4-11.
"We haven't been consistent like we were earlier in the year," St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran said. "I'm not worried about Pittsburgh. We've got to find a way to play better baseball."
NOTES: St. Louis made a series of roster moves besides recalling Martinez. The Cardinals also called up LHP Sam Freeman from Triple-A Memphis to provide a fresh arm to the bullpen, and they sent RHP Keith Butler and INF/OF Brock Peterson to Memphis. Freeman pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings Thursday in his big-league season debut. ... The Cardinals are rearranging their rotation for the next two series. They plan to recall RHP Michael Wacha from Memphis to start Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs and will push RHP Adam Wainwright back to Tuesday night's series opener against Pittsburgh, giving him three extra days of rest. ... St. Louis RHP Shelby Miller, who was hit on the right elbow by Carl Crawford's liner on the second pitch of Wednesday night's game, will be skipped a turn but isn't going on the disabled list for now. ... After this weekend's home series with the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles plays just 13 more games against winning teams, seven against Arizona. Three are against the Boston Red Sox and the other three are at Cincinnati.