LOS ANGELES -- The St. Louis Cardinals continue to soar.
The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to founder.
So what's new?
And if there is any remaining mystery why the Cardinals sit on top of the National League and the Dodgers are an expensive, fast-sinking ship, it was clear on Friday night as St. Louis used superior pitching and a dominating offense to pummel Los Angeles 7-0 to open a three-game series at Chavez Ravine.
These are two teams headed in opposite directions, and unless the Dodgers get their act straight, they might soon be looking for a new manager -- in addition to wondering where the top of the National League ran and hid.
"It's not the way you envision coming home and getting the homestand going," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
The Cardinals won for the fourth time in their last five games (3-1 on road trip) and improved their major league-best record to 31-16. St. Louis has posted a 17-8 road record this season and has won 11 of its last 13 road games. The Cardinals blanked an opponent for the eighth time this year.
St. Louis chipped away at Dodgers starter Chris Capuano, eventually chasing him in the sixth inning after scoring six runs on six hits -- including two home runs.
"I felt real good between starts, warm up session was great," Capuano said. "But for whatever reason, I was rushing out there and speeding things up. I'm not real happy mentally with how I handled the game."
It didn't help that he was facing the best team in the National League.
"I knew they were a pretty tough matchup for Cap, not the easiest team for him," Mattingly said. "I thought he kept us close, honestly."
As bad as Capuano was, St. Louis starter Lance Lynn was good.
Lynn had his string of five straight quality starts snapped in his last outing against Milwaukee, but he got right back on track against the Dodgers, giving up two hits in six scoreless innings while striking out nine to improve to 7-1 this year.
Relying on mostly fastballs the first three innings and then breaking pitching after that, Lynn cruised through the Dodgers' lineup, the only thing slowing him down a hamstring that tightened up on him throughout the game.
"Just one of those things where it flared up and we thought it was a good time to shut it down," Lynn said,
It was bothering him all night, and with the Cardinals extending innings offensively, Lynn had more and more difficulty getting stretched out.
"As the game went on, it started getting tighter and tighter and tougher to loosen up," Lynn said.
David Freese got the scoring started in the second with a double to deep left that brought home Jon Jay. St. Louis added two in the third when Allen Craig doubled in Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran to make it 3-0.
Craig's home run in the fifth made the score 4-0, and by the time Freese blasted a two-run homer to left, the rout was on and the Cardinals led 6-0.
Freese, playing for the first time since suffering a cut on his right thumb on Sunday, went 2 for 3 with a walk, double, a homer and three RBI. Freese has hit safely and has eight RBI in his last four games.
Craig went 2 for 4 with a double, a homer and three RBI as he hit safely for the sixth time in his last seven games. Craig is batting .363 (29 for 80) with three homers and 17 RBI in 21 games in May and has driven in at least one run in each of his last three games.
"It's always fun to come home to California," Craig said. "I got to go home and see the family on the off day, so that's cool."
Capuano's night was over after the Freese home run. The Cardinals were flexing their muscles and the Dodgers continued to search for answers.
None of which seem to be imminently forthcoming.
It was that kind of night for the surging Cardinals.
And it has been that kind of season for the underachieving Dodgers, who spent most of this week fending off questions about Mattingly's job security, only to back him with yet another dismal effort.
NOTES: Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia underwent surgery on left shoulder on Friday, performed by team physician George Paletta, and the Cardinals are optimistic that Garcia will recover for the beginning of the 2014 season. Garcia pitched nine games for the Cardinals this year and went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA. ... Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter completed a successful bullpen session on Thursday in St. Louis and reported no issues by Friday. The plan now is for Carpenter to throw live batting practice early next week. ... After getting benched Wednesday against Milwaukee -- followed by Mattingly expressing concern about some players respecting the game more -- Dodgers OF Andre Ethier was hoping to talk to his manager to clear the air about his commitment. "If that's the way he feels, if that's an area I need help in or need adjusting and they feel that way, I'm open-eared to it and to address it and make it better," Ethier said. ... Meanwhile, Mattingly received the dreaded vote of confidence from team president Stan Kasten, who insisted Mattingly's job is safe after talk swirled earlier this week that it was in danger. "I like the team we've put together. I like the staff that we have. I do expect us to succeed," Kasten said. "I do expect this to turn around and because of that I expect Donnie to be here for a long time."