Perez sparkles in San Francisco

In a rivalry that extends back into the last century, the Dodgers and Giants banged heads for the first time in 2004 with Los Angeles earning a 3-2 victory, on eight sparkling innings by Odalis Perez (1-1), three runs by Dave Roberts and RBI groundouts by Milton Bradley. Barry Bonds nailed Eric Gagné's 100 mph fastball in the ninth for a two runs homer in a classic battle of superstars. The Dodgers remained in first place at 7-3. They started the season 8-2 in 1983.

In an evening when Shawn Green was sidelined by a groin injury, Dodger-killer Jason Schmidt on the mound for San Francisco and the legendary Willie Mays in the house to honor his godson, Barry Bonds' 661st home run to pass Mays on the all-time list, it was Odalis Perez, who had been "traded" a dozen times in the off-season by fans and writers.

Perez stepped up to throw eight artistic innings, allowing two hits and no runs. He painted the corners all evening and general managers all over baseball were kicking themselves that they didn't make a deal for the lefthander when they had the opportunity.

Perez allowed only a pair of doubles, both to Edgardo Alfonzo but lived on the outside corner of the plate. He struck out 10 with one walk, throwing 106 pitches.

The Dodgers did not get their first hit off Schmidt until there was one out in the sixth inning and they were already leading, 1-0.

With a runner on base and two out in the ninth, Gagné nearly had Bonds struck out on a 2-2 pitch before he hit a 100 mph fastball into the center-field bleachers. Gagné, who lost the battle but won the war, picked up his third save and 66th in a row.

Roberts led off the game for the Dodgers and quickly created a 1-0 lead for Perez. He walked, was bunted to second by Cesar Izturis, stole third (steal #7) and scored when Bradley grounded out to second base.

Roberts got on base again with one out in the top of the sixth, breaking up Schmidt's no-hitter with a bloop single that fell in front of a Barry Bonds in left who dived for the ball but came up empty.

On a hit-and-run, Izturis bounced a single through the hole, allowing Roberts to continue to third. Bradley then collected another RBI on another groundout, beating the relay to first base to avoid the double play as Roberts scored.

The combination worked for the third time in the ninth. Roberts walked, took second on an errant pickoff throw, was bunted to third by Izturis and scored on yet another groundout by Bradley.

When some thought that one additional hitter would not make any difference, the Dodgers acquired Milton Bradley, a super-talented center fielder who just turned 26, a switch-hitter with power and speed who was, happily for the Dodgers, deemed expendable after a conflict with management.

Bradley proved in the most important game of the season so far, that three simple ground balls to the right side of the infield are more valuable than a spectacular 400-foot home run.

Obviously, to say Bradley is the answer to all the Dodgers' offensive problems would be an exaggeration. But to say that he might be the right piece of the puzzle at the right time would be accurate, at least on one spectacular night in San Francisco.

Dodger Blue Notes--Green was scratched from the lineup because of continued stiffness in his right groin muscle, injured Thursday in San Diego. Green was in the original lineup but after he hit and jogged a bit, it was still tight and Tracy determined to hold him out. The injury came just as Green's bat had heated up. He reached base 9 of his last 12 times and had boosted his average to .333. ... Jeff Weaver, after being knocked around in his last start, did not agree with the suggestion he was tipping his pitches. He said he was overanalyzing things, attempting to throw perfect pitches instead of just quality pitches. ... Jeremy Giambi, a non-roster player in training camp whose spring was cut short by lower back problems, is rehabilitating at Triple-A Las Vegas. ... Disabled outfielder Jayson Werth reports no change in his pulled oblique muscle. Trainers will not let him swing a bat until the muscle re-attaches. He reports that he has no pain unless he coughs or sneezes. ... Alex Cora, who was hitting just .143 before collecting a double and triple Thursday against San Diego, says his rebound began late last season when he batted .346 in September.