Dodgers 7, Cardinals 6

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Steve Finley has gone from struggling to streaking in three nights.

Finley drove in the go-ahead run for the third consecutive game, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers over the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 Friday night in a matchup of division leaders.

“I love being in those situations,” he said. “That’s what September baseball is all about. Every game is important right now.”

Finley went 3-for-3 and is hitting .302 with nine homers and 32 RBIs since the Dodgers acquired him from Arizona on July 31.

“Ever since he got here, he’s been the man,” left fielder Jayson Werth said.

Adrian Beltre hit his major league-leading 45th homer, a three-run drive that helped the Dodgers win their fourth straight and increased their NL West lead to six games over San Francisco, which lost 2-1 to Arizona.

“It was a fight to the end,” St. Louis left fielder Reggie Sanders said. “That’s a team that’s very hot right now.”

The Cardinals, who swept the Dodgers at home last weekend, retained a 17-game lead in the NL Central, although they lost for the third time in four games.

“Tremendous game played like a playoff game,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “Finley had three more hits than he had in all of St. Louis.”

Finley sent an 0-2 pitch from Kiko Calero (1-1) into the right-field pavilion, breaking a 5-all tie and scoring Cesar Izturis, who doubled. It triggered a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 54,119.

“The pitch to Beltre and the pitch to Finley, what is that, five runs?” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “They’re men, not machines, they make mistakes. We didn’t pitch well enough.”

Finley homered twice in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over Arizona on Thursday and drove in the go-ahead run in their victory against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, ending an 0-for-19 slump.

“I don’t always get to pick and choose when you come through,” he said. “I feel the same as I did before. I’m seeing the ball better.”

Giovanni Carrara (5-2) threw one inning for the victory, and Eric Gagne pitched 1 2-3 innings for his 39th save in 41 chances, allowing a solo homer to Sanders.

“Gagne is throwing the ball extremely well in key situations where we needed to drive in runs,” Sanders said. “He did it against Arizona and he did it against us. They used their pitchers to keep us off-balance. It was a well-played game and they had the last laugh.”

Gagne inherited a runner at first with one out in the eighth, then gave up a single to Tony Womack and a two-out walk to Albert Pujols before retiring Marlon Anderson on a grounder.

“It’s crunch time,” Gagne said. “I don’t care how many outs I get. We’re winning.”

Scott Rolen drove in the Cardinals’ first four runs before leaving with a strained left knee in the fourth inning. He led off the second with his 33rd home run, and a fan tossed the ball back.

He fouled a ball off his shin, then injured his calf on a double in the third, which caused swelling in his leg, La Russa said.

Los Angeles responded in the bottom half with back-to-back homers by Shawn Green and Werth for a 2-1 lead.

Rolen’s three-run double in the third put St. Louis ahead and chased Kazuhisa Ishii, but Beltre homered with two outs in the bottom half. The crowd chanted “MVP! MVP!” as Beltre circled the bases.

Sanders’ sacrifice fly retied it at 5 in the fifth.


About 3,500 fans showed up at Dodger Stadium on Friday to buy playoff tickets. Walkup sales, besides telephone and Internet orders, prompted a sellout of all three potential NL division series home games. … The Dodgers’ remaining opponents for the final 22 regular-season games are St. Louis, San Diego, Colorado and San Francisco, which have a combined .547 winning percentage—second-best in all three NL divisions. … Beltre’s 106 RBIs are the most by a Los Angeles third baseman since Ron Cey’s 110 in 1977. … Beltre is the sixth third baseman in major league history with at least 45 homers in a season. The previous was Anaheim’s Troy Glaus with 47 in 2000.

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