Choi's Homer Gives Dodgers 9-8 Victory

People who had doubts about Hee-Seop Choi's talents are beginning to have doubts about their doubts. The big first baseman slugged a three-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Dodgers a 9-7 lead and they held on for a wild 9-8 victory over St. Louis. Choi also singled in the Dodgers' first run and finished with his second four-RBI game this year. After opening the season 1-for-15, he's hit .338.

The homer was only part of a 2-for-4 performance by Choi, who had a gutty, eight-pitch at-bat in the first inning before singling in Cesar Izturis to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. Choi's four RBI tied the career high he set with his April 29 grand slam against Colorado.

Choi is 6-for-13 with three homers and seven RBI on this trip, 14-for-35 (.400) with five home runs and 13 RBI over the past 12 games.

Over the first six weeks of the season, he's hitting .280 with six home runs and 15 RBI. The man he replaced, Shawn Green, is hitting .258 with four home runs and 18 RBI.

But manager Jim Tracy don't start Choi against lefties, where he is 1-for-7 with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.

Choi wasn't the only hero in this game. The Dodgers led 3-0, two of the runs following a disputed call at first base on a J.D. Drew infield single in the fourth inning. Starter Scott Erickson couldn't stand the prosperity, having allowed seven runs on 10 hits and saw his ERA balloon to 7.26.

Trailing, 7-3 after five innings, the Dodgers fought right back with a Jeff Kent solo home run leading off the sixth and a single by Milton Bradley. Two outs later, pinch-hitter Jason Grabowski worked a walk to load the bases.

Cesar Izturis, who led off the game with a double, banged a two-run single to set up Choi's blast to center that just cleared the wall.

Wilson Alvarez earned his first victory of the year with a minimum of work, retiring one batter to end the fifth inning. He was the first of a streak of six Dodger relievers. Steve Schmoll allowed the only run off the bullpen in the final 4.1 innings. Kelly Wunsch was solid, Duaner Sanchez and Giovanni Carrara ran into trouble in the seventh and eighth innings, but escaped with inning-ending double-play grounders.

And Yhency Brazoban, who figures to return the closer's role to Eric Gagne by the weekend, recorded his 10th save, striking out a pair.

Dodger pitchers held Albert Pujols to one hit, two RBI and kept him in the ballpark one night after he homered twice and drove in all of St. Louis' runs.

The Dodgers (20-12), who maintained a two-game lead over Arizona atop the National League West.

Dodger Blue Notes--Eric Gagne's anticipated return from the 15-day disabled list, will be a boost to the Dodgers' bullpen, although rookie Yhency Brazoban has converting 10 of 11 save opportunities. Gagne will allow the Dodgers to cut the game to seven innings with Brazoban back to the primary setup role. That will move Giovanni Carrara, Duaner Sanchez and Kelly Wunsch into earlier innings, which takes pressure off the starters. Gagne is scheduled to make a two-inning stint tonight in Nashville with the Las Vegas 51s. … Oscar Robles, who was purchased from the Mexico City Red Devils on Sunday, arrived at Busch Stadium for his first day in the majors and started at third base. Robles is a natural shortstop, but he primarily played second and third for the Red Devils. He has played 10-plus professional seasons. … Rookie Jason Repko hit .325 in the spring to win a roster spot as Jayson Werth's outfield replacement, but since Apr. 18, Repko is 4-for-34 and his average has plunged to .200. Repko said he is thinking too much and pushing too hard. … First-base coach John Shelby missed his second game while attending to a family health problem.