ST. LOUIS -- It's safe to say that few experts thought the Los Angeles Dodgers would begin the year 30-42 and put their manager's job in jeopardy.
And it's safer to assume few thought the Dodgers would respond as they have since falling 9 1/2 games off the pace in the National League West on June 21.
Winning for the 15th straight time on the road Monday night, Los Angeles bumped its division lead over Arizona to six games with a 3-2 decision over the St. Louis Cardinal in a potential NL playoff preview at Busch Stadium.
Zack Greinke (9-3) scattered eight hits over 6 1/3 effective innings and knocked in the team's final run as he collected the 100th win of his career. It was the 32nd win in the past 39 games for the Dodgers (62-49).
"Just keep it going," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said. "Feels good to start a four-game series with a win like this against that team."
In the seventh inning, Greinke's two-out RBI single to right-center off Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright scored Nick Punto for a 3-1 lead. It was the 15th hit in 37 at-bats for the Los Angeles right-hander, who has a .405 batting average.
More important, Greinke was able to bear down in tough situations against a team that leads the majors with a .339 average with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals were only 1-for-7 in those situations against Greinke and 1-for-9 for the game.
"Zack's just a baseball player," Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He can handle the bat and defend his position as well as anyone around. He just has a great feel for the game of baseball. What he did against that team today with runners in scoring position was the difference in the game."
St. Louis pulled within a run in its half of the seventh on Allen Craig's run-scoring grounder to first, his 86th RBI of the year. However, Matt Holliday left the tying run at third with a first-pitch grounder to short.
Wainwright (13-7) allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings. He walked two and fanned five. Still, he failed to win for the third straight start and remained in a three-way tie for the National League lead in wins with teammate Lance Lynn and the Washington Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann.
With closer Kenley Jansen unavailable after getting saves the last two games, Paco Rodriguez worked the last two innings for the Dodgers, earning his second save.
The Cardinals (65-46) dropped two games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.
St. Louis grabbed the lead in the bottom of the first with the help of shaky Los Angeles defense. Matt Carpenter led off with a double to right-center and took third when right fielder Yasiel Puig bobbled the ball for an error.
Carlos Beltran then hit a bouncer to Punto, filling in at shortstop for the injured Hanley Ramirez. Punto threw home in an attempt to erase the late-breaking Carpenter, but his throw sailed over the head of catcher Ellis as Carpenter scored easily.
The Dodgers took the lead in the fourth with two runs. Andre Ethier's broken-bat single plated Adrian Gonzalez, and Ellis' fielder's choice bouncer scored Puig, who doubled off the base of the right-center-field wall after Gonzalez walked.
Los Angeles denied the Cardinals an equalizing tally in the fifth when Craig was nailed at the plate following David Freese's double to right-center. Puig overthrew the first cutoff man, but Punto trailed the play and zipped a strike to Ellis, who tagged the sliding Craig for the third out.
"It took a lot of momentum from us," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "When I saw the ball come out of (Puig's) hand, I thought we had a good chance to tie the game. It was a great throw by Punto and a great tag by Ellis."
Great has been the operative word for the Dodgers since their stumbling start. History could be the next word if they sweep the series, because they would break the New York Giants' 97-year old NL record of 17 straight road wins.
"I think this is something the guys are proud of," Mattingly summed up. "It shows that we're getting ready to play and not taking teams for granted."
NOTES: St. Louis RHP Chris Carpenter (nerve inflammation) said Monday that he's not optimistic about his chances of pitching this year. Carpenter felt numbness in his right hand during his second rehab game July 20 for Triple-A Memphis and hasn't thrown since. He allowed 15 hits and seven runs, six earned, in two rehab starts last month ... Los Angeles recalled SS Dee Gordon from Triple-A Albuquerque and sent RHP Shawn Fife to the Pacific Coast League squad. Gordon could be insurance in case Ramirez has to be disabled due to a jammed right shoulder. ... Cardinals OF Shane Robinson (straight right shoulder) took batting practice Monday and said he should he ready to go when he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Aug. 15.