Tied for First With Two Games to Go

The Dodgers and Giants have been banging heads for the past 117 years in the National League and Friday nights game in San Francisco lived up to past billings. The two bitter enemies have savored either clinching the pennant or knocking the other team out of the pennant in classic encounters both in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles. This game was one of a series of memories to savor.

The Giants tagged Hong-Chic Kuo for three runs and held that lead into the seventh when Jeff Kent singled and J.D. Drew homered. Kent led off the ninth with another single, Russell Martin walked with one out and Olmedo Saenz pinch-hit single tied the score. Martin scored on a wild pitch, Takashi Saito made it exciting but nailed it down and the Dodgers (86-74) moved into the first-place tie with San Diego, who lost to Arizona.

The Dodgers and Padres also share the wildcard lead. two games in front of the Phillies, and a single win by either of them in the next two games will give either or both of them a spot in the postseason.

The vast majority of the 42,587 fans in attendance spent the evening screaming "Beat L.A." until they hoarse, or actually until Saito fanned the final Giants batter in the last of the ninth with the tying and winning run in scoring position.

Drew, who signed a huge contract in 2005, then missed half of the season with a broken wrist after being hit by a pitch, redeemed himself in the eyes of his worst critic over the past month.

During the tag end of August and through September, 32 games, he has hit .369, smacked eight homers and has knocked in 26 runs. His 20th homer Friday night tied him for the team lead and he has a career-high 98 runs batted in.

Tempering the win, Nomar Garciaparra, who was 0-for4, left the game after striking out in the top of the eighth inning. He was in obvious pain while Dodger trainers worked on him in the dugout.

His home run came in the seventh with the Dodgers shut out 3-0 and with only three hits on the board. Hits don't get much more important than that.

Jeff Kent sparked both scoring innings with leadoff singles. The veteran second baseman is bothered by a sore oblique muscle, just how sore no one will ever know because when asked, he replies only, "It's not an issue."

Kuo, making his fifth major league start, gave the Dodgers what they needed, five strong innings but he left after allowing eight hits and three runs.

Aaron Sele worked a scorless sixth and Joe Beimel kept the game close after Drew's shot and got the first two in the eighth before Jonathan Broxton came in to strike out the final hitter in the eighth but not before giving up a single.

In the ninth, Kent singled to right and Jason Repko ran for him. Drew went deep in the count but took a third strike. Russell Martin the most important walk of his young career to put the lead run on base.

Saenz was called upon to replace left-handed swinging Marlon Anderson and he faced lefty Mike Stanton, who started the ninth. The Dodger veteran came through with his 15th pinch-hit of the season, a single to right that scored Repko with the tying run, moving Martin to second and EY Young ran for him.

Julio Lugo hit into a force play that eliminated Young with Martin carrying the potential winning run to third. Moments later, when Ramon Martinez was pinch-hitting for Broxton, Stanton bounced a splitter and Martin came in on the wild pitch to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead.

Saito struck out Edgardo Alfonso to open the bottom of the night before a very quiet ballpark. But the noise level picked up when Steve Finley, who was in the same sort of position in 2004 and slugged a grand slam against the Giants to give the Dodgers the N.L. West title.

He kept San Francisco hopes alive with a single to center and when Randy Winn duplicated with another single to center, Finley moved to third.

With the noise so loud it could be heard in Arizona where the Padres waited for the outcome, Saito induced Omar Vizquel to foul out to Repko in short left but Winn moved to second on the throw to the plate.

Shea Hillenbrand was the next Giant batter but Felipe Alou called on Mark Sweeney to hit for him with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

But Saito, the oldest rookie in Dodger history, was up to the challenge and caught Sweeney looking at a third strike to moved the Dodgers into a first-place tie with San Diego and clinch the wildcard spot, returning the club to post-season action for the second time in three years.

The save was the 23rd for the crafty Japanese pitcher, boosting his own rookie record set just the day before in Colorado.

Broxton (4-1) retired one batter and earned the win after the ninth inning rally.

Oh, and by the way, Barry Bonds was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, putting the cherry on the cupcake.

Greg Maddux (14-14, 4.26) is scheduled to oppose Matt Cain (13-11, 4.09) this afternoon (Saturday). Derek Lowe (16-8, 3.63) is scheduled to start Sunday against Jason Schmidt (11-9, 3.56).

But manager Grady Little announced before the game that if the Dodgers clinched ether the Division title or the wildcard, Lowe would be held out and would pitch the Game 1 of the playoffs instead.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles   000 000 202-4
San Francisco 010 020 000-3 

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave 
Furcal ss       4 0 1 0 .300
Lofton cf       4 0 1 0 .297
Garciaparra 1b  4 0 0 0 .303
 Loney 1b       0 0 0 0 .286
Kent 2b         4 1 2 0 .290
 Repko pr-lf    0 1 0 0 .252
Drew rf         4 1 1 2 .281
Martin c        2 1 0 0 .284
Anderson lf     3 0 1 0 .299
 Saenz ph       1 0 1 1 .292
 Young pr       0 0 0 0 .000
 Saito p        0 0 0 0 .000
Lugo 3b-2b      4 0 0 0 .219
Kuo p           1 0 0 0 .125
 Kemp ph        1 0 0 0 .253
 Sele p         0 0 0 0 .192
 Betemit ph     1 0 0 0 .264
 Beimel p       0 0 0 0 .000
 Broxton p      0 0 0 0 .000
 Martinez ph-3b 1 0 0 0 .279
     Totals    34 4  7 3
     Giants    37 3 12 3

  HR - Drew (20). RBI - Drew 2 (98), 
Saenz (48). LOB - Los Angeles 5. 
DP - (Furcal, Kent andGarciaparra).

  Dodgers     ab h r-er bb so era 
Kuo           5.0 8 3-3 0 6 4.22
Sele          1.0 1 0-0 0 2 4.53
Beimel        1.2 0 0-0 1 1 3.00
Broxton (4-1) 0.1 1 0-0 0 1 2.63
Saito (sv 23) 1.0 2 0-0 0 2 2.09
   Time: 2:55. Att: 42,587.

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