Cardinals take opener of series versus Dodgers

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In a lineup with Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, it’s Allen Craig who has been chosen to hit cleanup of late. He showed why yet again Thursday, singling home the go-ahead run in the seventh as the Cardinals took the opener of a four-game series against the Dodgers 2-1.

Both the Cardinals and Dodgers had lost three straight entering the night, leaving St. Louis with the one-game edge as they battle for what will likely be one wild card spot. The Cardinals jumped further ahead in the competition thanks in part to a strong effort from All-Star Lance Lynn, who was filling in for the injured Jake Westbrook and making his first start since being bounced from the rotation last month.

Lynn allowed one run in six innings and struck out seven on the night. He and Josh Beckett pitched to a draw after Beckett allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings.

Beckett’s night will be better remembered for the single that wasn’t, as he was thrown out at first by Carlos Beltran on his hard shot into right field in the third inning.

The Dodgers got their only run on an Adrian Gonzalez single in the first. The Cards came right back and tied it in the top of the second on a Skip Schumaker single.

The Cardinals, who racked up 10 hits and five walks (two intentional), wasted several opportunities after that. They had 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position, yet only twice converted (though they had four hits; two of them didn’t score runs). Before Craig’s single in the seventh, the Cards got leadoff hitter Shane Robinson on via a walk from Paco Rodriguez in his third major league appearance. Instead of remaining patient, Jon Jay decided to sacrifice him along, only to pop up the bunt. Fortunately, Matt Carpenter singled afterwards and Craig delivered his hit with two outs.

For Craig, it was his 77th RBI in 102 games this season. He’s driven 37 runs in 47 games as a cleanup hitter. Obviously, that’s less than one-third of a season worth of action. However, it’s a better rate of driving in runs than Albert Pujols maintained in either of his last two seasons with St. Louis.

Bryce Harper letting his haters be his motivators

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When the Phillies go on the road, and even sometimes at home, outfielder Bryce Harper is a magnet for hecklers. Fans have been chanting things like “overrated” at him. But it hasn’t really been working.

Last night, Harper was being booed and ridiculed by fans at Fenway Park according to MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato. Harper shut them up with a two-run home run in the fifth inning which gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead, the score by which they would eventually win. Manager Gabe Kapler said, “I thought it was really interesting. There were some hecklers. I don’t know if they were Red Sox [fans] or who they were, but they were on him pretty good up until that moment. That was a pretty explosive moment for the dugout celebration.”

It is not the only time Harper has been heckled only to homer shortly thereafter.

Last week, Harper was 0-for-3 in a game against the Cubs. On his way back to the dugout, a fan yelled, “$330 million, 0-for-3.” Per TMZ Sports, Harper responded, “Shut the f–k up, stupid!” He would go on to hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Two weeks ago in San Francisco, fans chanted “overrated” at Harper. He promptly hit one of his two home runs in the Phillies’ 9-6 victory.

Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2009, when he was 17 years old. Tom Verducci compared him to LeBron James, a comparison that has stuck with Harper ever since. He was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 draft. He’s more than used to being in the spotlight and more than used to hearing a little criticism. He lets his haters be his motivators. Maybe his detractors should approach it from the opposite angle — try killing him with kindness. Yelling, “Bryce, you have great hair!” might get him to go on an 0-for-54 skid.