ST. LOUIS — Zack Greinke is getting tripped up by first innings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander allowed the first four St. Louis hitters to reach base and score in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday, which gave him losses in consecutive regular-season starts for the first time in nearly four years.
"It feels like the last two months, the first inning is always the toughest," Greinke said. "I need to find a way to be better right from the get-go."
Greinke has a 2.90 ERA and .257 opponents' batting this year but has struggled in first innings, when his ERA is 5.90 ERA and batters are hitting .306 against him, according to STATS. He gave up two first-inning runs in a 4-1 loss to Detroit in his previous outing July 9.
Greinke (11-6) walked a season-high five on Saturday and gave up four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. He lost back-to-back regular-season starts for the first time since Sept. 20 and 25, 2010 for Kansas City at Detroit and Cleveland. He did lose his regular-season finale against Colorado last season and was beaten by Atlanta in his first post-season start.
Coming off a perfect inning in the All-Star game, Greinke allowed four runs during his first 16 pitches. He did not allow a hit over the next three innings but was removed with two out and two on in the sixth.
"Overall, it's a bad game if you make that many mistakes," he said. "Especially back-to-back-to-back like that."
Los Angeles has scored just 12 runs in its last seven games and has three runs in Greinke's last two starts.
"Right now, I don't think anyone is hot-hot," he said. "And that makes it tougher. It definitely helps to have someone come up that's going to get the job done every time."
Joe Kelly (2-1) gave up four hits over seven innings in his second outing since a three-month stint on the disabled list caused by a strained left hamstring. He retired his last 13 batters as the Cardinals won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Kelly didn't get a decision on July 11, when he gave up six runs over three innings during the Cardinals' 7-6 win at Milwaukee. He induced 12 groundouts and got out of trouble with double plays in each of the first two innings.
Los Angeles first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said Kelly had great pitch location.
"He didn't throw any balls in the middle of the plate," he said. "He kept throwing his fastballs right on the corner. There weren't any pitches to drive."
Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals' third reliever, got his 30th save in 34 chances when Andre Either grounded into a game-ending double play.
St. Louis is 21-10 at home against the Dodgers in the regular season since the start of the 2006. The Cardinals also beat Los Angeles in six games in last year's NL championship series.
Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday left the game in the fifth, four innings after he was shaken up while diving back into second base on a pickoff attempt. The Cardinals said team doctors determined Holliday did not sustain a concussion.
Dodgers All-Star outfielder Yasiel Puig left in the eighth, five innings after he was hit on the left hand by a Kelly pitch. Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said Puig got hit, "near the top or on the side a little bit."
Both players were considered day to day.
Matt Carpenter opened the Cardinals' first with a walk, and Kolten Wong reached on a slow roller when second baseman Dee Gordon threw wide of first, a play ruled a hit and an error that put runners on second and third,
Holliday followed with a two-run single and Adams hit his 12th homer on Greinke's 16th pitch of the game.
Adams, who has 15 hits in his last 39 at-bats, drilled a line drive over the right-field wall.
"The curveball just popped up in the zone," Adams said. "When it does that, you know it's a good one to swing at."
Greinke said Adams outsmarted him.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and it was the wrong choice," he said. "Usually, he's kind of patient early."
Los Angeles, which has lost five of eight, scored on Hanley Ramirez's RBI infield single in the third and Carl Crawford's sacrifice fly against Sam Freeman in the eighth.
NOTES: Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (11-2, 1.78) is to face RHP Carlos Martinez (2-4, 4.43) in the series finale on Sunday. ... Los Angeles OF Matt Kemp is in a 2 for 18 skid over the last seven games with 11 strikeouts. ... Kelly retired the Dodgers in order in the fifth on consecutive groundouts to Wong at second base. ....Gordon leads the major leagues with 31 infield hits.