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Finley Hot Hand Wins Card Game

His third homer in two games helps the Dodgers finally defeat the Cardinals, 7-6, and increase their lead to six games over the Giants.

September 11, 2004|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Poor grades on the first round of exams last weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals provided plenty for the Dodgers to review.

They appear to have studied well.

The Dodgers rebounded after having been swept by the Cardinals, winning the series opener, 7-6, Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 54,119 at Dodger Stadium.

Steve Finley and Adrian Beltre laid the foundation for the Dodgers' fourth consecutive victory and first against the team with the major leagues' best record, hitting timely home runs as the National League West leaders overcame Kazuhisa Ishii's second-shortest start of the season (2 1/3 innings).

The Dodgers (82-58) increased their lead to six games over second-place San Francisco. The Cardinals (93-47) still lead the NL Central by 17 games.

Finley added another in a series of clutch performances this week, hitting a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh against Kiko Calero (1-1), who relieved starter Jason Marquis to start the inning.

The center fielder, hitless in 12 at-bats against St. Louis last weekend, connected for his 32nd homer and third in two nights.

"One thing we didn't do last week against St. Louis was hit," said Manager Jim Tracy, whose team had four homers among 11 hits.

"Steve Finley had three hits tonight, and that was three more than he had in the whole series in St. Louis."

Said Finley: "It's a sold-out house, they were getting into the game and that made it more enjoyable."

And then there's Beltre.

The third baseman continued to build his case for the NL most-valuable-player award, hitting his league-leading 45th homer in the third. Beltre gave the Dodgers a 5-4 edge with a three-run shot, circling the bases as fans chanted "M-V-P."

"We know we didn't play our best against those guys last week," said Beltre, whose 106 runs batted are four fewer than Ron Cey's franchise record for third basemen set in 1977.

"We didn't hit like we have all year and we didn't play defense like we can. We pitched pretty [well], but that was it. We want to do better at home."

The Dodgers got back-to-back homers from Shawn Green and Jayson Werth in the second. Cardinal third baseman Scott Rolen also was productive before leaving in the fourth because of a strained left knee. Rolen, who leads the league in RBIs, hit his 33rd homer and had a three-run double.

Eric Gagne, the Dodgers' sixth pitcher, worked the final 1 2/3 innings to earn his 39th save in 41 opportunities, but it wasn't as easy as usual for Gagne, who stirred anger among the Cardinals in the eighth after escaping a bases-loaded jam on pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson's groundout.

Gagne apparently took exception to a bit of gamesmanship by St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa, who stopped play during Anderson's at-bat to supposedly ask an umpire whether time had been called after Gagne threw a ball into the Dodger dugout.

Gagne rolled the ball toward La Russa after taking the feed from first baseman Green, triggering an angry response from La Russa, who spoke with an umpire about Gagne's action and threw the ball back toward the Dodger dugout. Milton Bradley then threw the ball back toward La Russa.

"I had a legitimate question," La Russa said. "There's no reason to do anything like that."

Gagne downplayed the incident.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," he said. "He's one of the best managers in the game."

Gagne gave up a two-out, solo homer to Reggie Sanders in the ninth, but struck out pinch-hitter Ray Lankford to nail down the victory for Giovanni Carrara (5-2) and end the 3-hour 13-minute game.

It was another rough night for Ishii.

"I'm not going to talk about that," Tracy said of Ishii's performance.

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