Dodgers 5, Expos 4

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Adrian Beltre’s long-awaited breakout season might finally be here.

Beltre hit a pair of solo homers off Livan Hernandez and singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Expos on Saturday night.

“Every year is supposed to be my breakout year, but I don’t think about that,” said Beltre, a seven-year veteran who turned 25 last month. “I do my best every day I go out there. I’m more confident than last year. And when you’re confident, you feel like you can hit any pitch.”

Jason Grabowski led off the eighth with a pinch-hit double to right-center against reliever Luis Ayala (0-5). Dave Roberts bunted him to third and Beltre drove him in one out later with a single to right.

Beltre tied it at 4 with his ninth homer, driving Hernandez’s first pitch of the seventh over the center-field fence. He didn’t hit his ninth home run last season until July 31.

Beltre has five career multi-homer games and 22 RBIs in 23 games.

“He knew he was going to be one of the key ingredients of this team’s chances to succeed, and he probably put more pressure on himself than other people put on him earlier in his career,” teammate Alex Cora said. “But now, with the addition of Milton Bradley and Juan Encarnacion, he’s a little more relaxed and he has more chances to drive in runs.”

Prior to this season, Beltre’s career average before the All-Star break was .225, and for the past few seasons has been the scapegoat for the team’s failures.

“You expect that from the fans and the press because they take players for granted,” Cora said. “They hyped him so much here that they expected him to hit 30 or 40 home runs and drive in 100.

“Before this year, most of the time he was out there with two outs and thought, `Hey, I’ve got to hit a home run so we can score a run.’ And that wasn’t fair to him. But it’s a learning process for him. He had to learn on the job and it’s paying off right now.”

Reliever Guillermo Mota (1-0) pitched the eighth and got a break when center fielder Roberts caught Juan Rivera’s liner and doubled Brad Wilkerson off second base for an inning-ending double play.

The Expos also ran themselves out of a run in the third. Orlando Cabrera tried to score behind Endy Chavez on a single to right-center by Wilkerson, but Cora’s relay to the plate was a perfect one-bounce throw that ended the inning.

“There were a lot of things that were backbreakers tonight,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said after his team’s sixth straight loss and 17th in 20 games. “We self-destructed out there, and that’s what happens when you don’t play good baseball.”

NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne struck out the side in the ninth to extend his major league record for consecutive saves to 70. It was his seventh this season.

The Dodgers didn’t hit a ball out of the infield after loading the bases with none out in the sixth—but scratched out a run to trim Montreal’s lead to 4-3. Juan Encarnacion led off the inning with a single and scored on Roberts’ one-out dribbler up the first base line.

Hernandez was charged with four runs, nine hits and seven walks in seven innings for Montreal.

Tony Batista put Montreal ahead 3-2, leading off the fourth with his second homer. He pulled Jose Lima’s 1-2 pitch inside the foul field pole and just above the short fence in the left-field corner.

Los Angeles’ first two runs came on Beltre’s first-inning homer and an RBI single in the second by Lima, who allowed four runs and seven hits over five innings.

“I knew we were going to come back,” Lima said. “I kept the team in thegame and we came back and won it.”

Notes

The Expos’ bullpen has an 0-8 record, making them the only team in the majors without a victory credited to a reliever. … Schneider, who threw out 21 of 45 potential base-stealers for a major league-leading percentage of 46.7 erased Cesar Izturis just before Beltre’s first homer. … The Dodgers’ .636 winning percentage in April (14-8) was their highest since 1988, when they began 13-7 en route to their last World Series title. … The Dodgers are 8-0in one-run games.

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