Cardinals-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

While team president Stan Kasten insisted manager Don Mattingly isn't in immediate danger of being fired, a lot could change if things continue to go poorly for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The disappointing Dodgers hope to begin their turnaround and avoid a second straight defeat at Dodger Stadium against the major league-best St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.

Despite a $215 million payroll, Los Angeles (19-27) is last in the NL West with a big-name offense that ranks near the bottom of the majors with 3.39 runs per game.

Amid rumors that Mattingly's job could be in jeopardy, Kasten gave his manager, who is in the third and final year of his contract, a vote of confidence before a 7-0 loss to the Cardinals (31-16) on Friday.

"I do expect things to turn around. I expect Donnie to be here for a long time,'' Kasten said. "I understand there is another side of that if things don't go well. I don't think of things like that.''

Although they've won three of their last four series, the Dodgers committed two errors and managed only three hits while losing for the fifth time in seven games to open their five-game homestand.

They'll try to bounce back with Ted Lilly (0-1, 5.63 ERA) taking the mound for the first time since coming off the disabled list because of a strained right rib cage.

Lilly, who replaces the injured Josh Beckett (groin) in the rotation, hasn't pitched since allowing five runs and eight hits - two homers - over three innings in a 12-2 loss to Colorado on April 29.

The left-hander has pitched well against the Cardinals, going 7-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 15 career starts.

Matt Holliday is just 2 for 11 with a homer and four strikeouts versus Lilly, while Yadier Molina is hitting .176 with a homer in 34 at-bats.

The Cardinals have batted .291 during a 17-5 surge, but they rank near the bottom of the majors with a .221 average off left-handers.

David Freese went 2 for 3 with a homer and three RBIs against southpaw Chris Capuano on Friday, showing no ill-effects after missing the previous three games with a cut on his thumb. He entered the contest 3 for 25 with no homers versus lefties this season.

"We're still trying to figure that out,'' Freese said. "Lefties give us trouble sometimes.''

After going 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs in the opener, Allen Craig is batting .464 with three homers and 12 RBIs in seven career games at Dodger Stadium.

Scheduled St. Louis starter John Gast (2-0, 4.76) looks to win for the third time in as many starts in place of the injured Jake Westbrook (elbow).

The left-hander has opened with five scoreless innings in each of his first two outings before giving up a total of six runs in the sixth.

"It's something to keep an eye on, but I don't think two starts is a big enough sample size to make any conclusions," Gast said.

This time, he'll have to deal with a Los Angeles team that ranks second in the majors with a .285 batting average versus left-handers, though its 3 for 32 against them since Sunday.

Adrian Gonzalez has hit left-handers hard, batting .345 with six doubles and 18 RBIs in 58 at-bats. Carl Crawford (.325), Mark Ellis (.357) and Nick Punto (.464) have also fared well.

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