LOS ANGELES -- After splitting a pair of games at Dodger Stadium that several in the clubhouse described as playoff-like, the Cardinals followed with one of their most ragged performances of the season Saturday.
Lance Lynn, so good as of late, battled a blister and lasted only two innings as the Dodgers cruised to a 9-1 win in front of 50,910 fans. It all unraveled in a 45-pitch second inning that included a visit from the team's assistant athletic trainer, a near-collision at home plate and a half-dozen runs.
The defense, outstanding in Friday's win, did Lynn no favors either. The offense mustered near nothing.
An error by subbing shortstop Daniel Descalso cost Lynn a first-inning run and another play not made by Descalso allowed Andre Ethier to reach safely leading off the second. He would be the first of 11 batters Lynn faced in the six-run inning, the most productive inning of the Dodgers' season to date.
"I think Lance, in particular, is getting better about handling when something doesn't happen," manager Mike Matheny said. "But you can only cover so many outs there. I think [the plays not made] kind of set the tone."
Ethier's single was followed with consecutive RBI doubles, after which Lynn sailed a 1-0 fastball behind Zack Greinke's head. After two more hitters reached and one more run scored, Lynn took a visit from trainer Chris Conroy and Matheny, who came out to cut off skin peeling away on the top of his middle finger.
Lynn, who routinely pitches through with blisters, speculated that this one may have become more dried out because of the climate change between Colorado and California. Whatever the cause, there was an adverse effect.
"The ball was moving good, but it was one of those things where everything kind of leaked back toward the middle," Lynn said. "I didn't have that extra bite that I normally do. I have to see that early and start making adjustments, and I wasn't able to do that."
Lynn described his finger as "burning" when he tried to throw offspeed pitches. That led him to open the second with 24 straight fastballs.
And gone was the guesswork.
"Then they were ready for it," Lynn said.
The inning may have turned even more laborious had Lynn not smothered the plate to keep Dee Gordon from scoring from second on a wild pitch. The play was briefly reviewed at the urging of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly before the out was confirmed.
"That out was big at that point," Matheny said.
"Heck," Lynn added. "I don't know if I would have gotten three outs if it wasn't for that one."
Lynn wanted to continue pitching past the second, but Matheny denied the request, wanting to avoid the risk of further finger damage to one of the few healthy starters the Cardinals have left.
The two-inning start equaled the shortest of Lynn's career. The seven runs allowed also tied a career most, though one was unearned.
His early departure also leaves the Cardinals needing to add a fresh pitcher to the 'pen before Sunday, as they were hopeful to have Nick Greenwood ready behind Shelby Miller in case Miller faced continued issues with back tightness. Instead, Greenwood was thrust into mop-up duty behind Lynn.
"Obviously, I knew I was coming in there to eat up some innings and you just want to get quick outs," Greenwood said. "But when you're doing that, you also want to keep us in the game so you want to put up as many zeros as possible and go as long as you can."
The lefty was terrific, saving the bullpen by throwing four scoreless innings but also 53 pitches. Eric Fornataro came in to cover the final two innings . A pair of misplays complicated the eighth and led to two final runs.
Greinke was unwavering with the cushion as he joined Adam Wainwright and Alfredo Simon as 10-game winners. Matt Carpenter's third-inning homer was the only blemish as Greinke improved to 5-0 with a 1.74 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals since 2012.
"Usually, especially in St. Louis, they hit me really hard, and I still get outs," Greinke said. "And at home, I've pitched better and the game's more like today."
The Cardinals struck out 10 times against Greinke, who is just the second starter to notch a double-digit strikeout total against St. Louis this season. The Cardinals, who will face Clayton Kershaw in the series finale, have scored four runs in the first three games of this series.
"A lack of offense isn't always completely on the offense," Matheny said. "I think we acknowledge that [Thursday's winner Josh] Beckett has been throwing the ball well and it was a very similar deal today. You have to get the big hit."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.