The Dodgers don't seem to notice they're missing two of their best hitters.

Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp are out because of injuries but the rest of the team led by the pitching staff just keeps finding ways to win.

The first-place Dodgers are 17-3 since the All-Star break after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday night.

This time it was the Dodgers' battery that propelled them with starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu having a stellar outing and catcher A.J. Ellis hitting a three-run home run to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning.

With the victory their 34th in 42 games the Dodgers took three of the four games at Busch Stadium and finished with a 7-1 record for the trip after sweeping the Chicago Cubs.

They also widened their lead in the National League West to 51/2 games over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks who were idle Thursday.

"We have so much respect for that Cardinals team and to come in here into a tough environment on the road and win the series says a lot about our team" Ellis said.

Ellis' home run his sixth of the season came off a sinker thrown by the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez a right-hander making his first big league start.

"Just trying to get a pitch to hit drive a run in get us the lead back" Ellis said. "I was fortunate that I found a pitch that had a little carry to it."

Moments after Ellis' hit Martinez developed a muscle cramp in his throwing hand and had to leave the game.

It was the second time in as many nights that the Cardinals' starting pitcher was forced from the game because of an injury.

Martinez had been called up from triple-A Memphis to make the start in place of Jake Westbrook. That's because Westbrook was pressed into duty Wednesday when Cardinals starter Shelby Miller was struck by Carl Crawford's line drive.