Bradley's catch saves 3-2 win

Baseball is a game unlike any other. Football is long touchdown runs and spectacular touchdown catches, with a clutch 55-yard field gold thrown in now and again. Basketball is roaring drives to the basket for twisting reverse layups or long, arching three point shots. But the play the game in the Dodgers 3-2 win over New York was not one of the two home runs, it was by Milton Bradley who ran back to the wall, extended his glove over the fence and snag a game-tying home run preserve the win.

Certainly Bradley was not the only hero.

Dave Roberts lined a two-run homer, his first of the season, with a runner on base, his first home run since last Aug. 9, and a rejuvinated Adrian Beltré slammed his seventh homer of the season to give the Dodgers all their runs. Beltré is on pace that would give him 56 homers with 145 RBI.

And Odalis Perez pitches six solid innings, then handed the ball to his bullpen and they fought off repeated attacks by the Mets.

Roberts battled for 11 pitches in the third, fouling off a number of full-count pitches, before smacking a fastball over the wall in right-center for a 2-1 lead. Beltré blasted his team-leading seventh homer, a solo shot, in the fifth to make it 3-1.

Then Bradley, who also made a sprawling catch of a sinking liner to end the fourth, dashed back and leaped, extending his glove over the center-field wall to take a home run away from the Mets, holding the ball triumphantly aloft in his right hand for all to see. Many of the 29,319 at Dodger Stadium didn't realize the center fielder had made the catch until he jogged back from the warning track with the ball in his right hand, and then they gave him a standing ovation.

Bradley's catches are all the more impressive considering the high left ankle sprain suffered in Colorado, which he said makes it hard to run the bases or bat left-handed.

The Mets put the tying run on second base in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but came up empty. In the seventh, with two on, reliever Darren Dreifort set down the next three batters.

With a man on second and one out in the eighth, Guillermo Mota retired Todd Zeile and Eric Gagné came on to get the final hitter who in reality got him with a line shot off his right thigh. Gagné scrambled to the ball and threw the runner out, then retired to the clubhouse to ice his leg. He returned to finish the game out and record his sixth save, extending his record for consecutive saves to 69.

Gagné pointed out after the game that if the two-out line drive hadn't struck his leg, the ball would have gone into center field, the game would have been tied and his streak would have been history. "It was lucky," he said.

After Bradley's catch, the Mets loaded the bases with one out but Perez got a run-scoring fly and a strikeout to get out of the jam inexpensively.

The Dodgers improved to 13-7 with the win and hold a 1 1/2 game lead over the surprising San Diego Padres.

Dodger Blue Notes--Roberts stole his major-league leading 14th base in the fifth but was stranded at second. ... Cesar Izturis has indicated that he is more than a slick-fielding shortstop. He has reached base in all 20 games and took a career-high 14-game hitting streak into the game before going hitless in four at-bats. He is batting .273 from the left side and .364 from the right, well above his .233 career average. ... Hideo Nomo's drop in velocity has the Dodgers concerned. In his five starts it has hindered his ability to get away with mistakes. The right-hander has yielded nine homers in 28 innings. It is not know whether the decrease in velocity can be charged to Nomo's age (35), off-season shoulder surgery or mechanical deficiencies. Manager Jim Tracy noted you can get away with mistakes if you're throwing 93, 94 mph but not 10 miles an hour slower than that. ... Outfielder Dave Roberts and the Dodgers Dream Foundation have donated more than $25,000 in equipment to local high school baseball and softball teams as a part of the Dave Roberts' Swipes For Schools campaign. ... Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers are teaming up to bring children's groups from the local community to designated Dodger home games in 2004 for the Los Amigos de Fernando program. Valenzuela will spend time talking to the groups and take pictures with the youngsters before returning to his broadcast duties. The children will also receive autographs and gift bags, compliments of Valenzuela. ... Dodgers closer Eric Gagné was presented the Players Choice Award as the National League's outstanding pitcher for 2003 before the game.