Los Angeles (75-54) at New York (60-68)

Cloudy Currently: New York, NY
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 1:10 pm EDT Sun Aug 29, 2004
  • TV: KCOP, WPIX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Los Angeles Dodgers are a far better offensive team in 2004.

Adrian Beltre’s breakout season is the biggest reason for that.

The first-place Dodgers look to ride the hot-hitting Beltre to their second straight win over the New York Mets when the teams conclude a three-game series at Shea Stadium.

The Dodgers finished 85-77 last season despite a punchless offense that hit .243 with 124 home runs and 574 runs.

Contributing to those offensive woes was a disappointing season from the highly touted Beltre, who hit .240 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs.

Beltre, however, has blossomed into one of the game’s premier hitters this season and is widely considered one of the leading candidates for NL MVP with Barry Bonds, Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols.

“I don’t feel anything. I just go in there and hack,” said Beltre, who can become a free agent after the season. “Sometimes you can think too much. I’m going good right now, I’m just enjoying this month.”

With his first career five-hit game in Saturday’s 4-2 victory, Beltre’s average improved to .342—80 points better than his career average entering this year. He also hit his major league-leading 42nd home run and drove in his 96th and 97th runs of the season.

“A tremendous game to win, especially the way we did it,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “I don’t know what else you can say about our third baseman. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen him hit a ball softly.”

With Beltre’s productive bat leading the way, Los Angeles is batting .268 this season and already has 606 runs and 162 home runs with more than a month left.

Saturday’s win improved the Dodgers to 3-3 on a 13-game trip and increased their lead in the NL West to five games over San Francisco.

“The last couple of years we’ve been chasing them, now they’re chasing us,” Beltre said. “We have to keep playing good ball because we know for sure that the Giants will.”

The Dodgers hoped to give Beltre some protection in the lineup when they acquired Hee Seop Choi from Florida on July 30. That trade, however, hasn’t worked out with Brad Penny on the disabled list and Choi hitting .174 (8-for-46) with no home runs and five RBIs in 19 games with Los Angeles.

The Mets have lost six of seven, scoring less than three runs per game during that span.

Injuries to Mike Piazza, Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui have taken a toll on New York, which started just three players from its opening day lineup Saturday.

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99 K 134
98 BB 61
1.47 WHIP 1.31