You Can Bet The Mint on Betemit

Wilson Betemit, still hitting a buck-94, slammed a three-run, pinch-hit home run to erase an early Cardinal lead and give the Dodgers a 5-4 win and the rubber game of their series Wednesday night in Dodger Stadium. Trailing 3-2, after giving St. Louis a pair of tainted runs, Betemit's homer in the fifth done 'em in.

Baseball is a game of patience. Batters must wait for a pitch to hit, pitchers must bait the hitter on a two-strike count and managers, more than anyone, must have the patience to wait for a player to find his groove. Grady Little had the patience and Wilson Betemit has repaid him three-fold so far early in the season.

San Diego kept pace with the league-leading Dodgers, topping Cincinnati 3-2 and holding three games back. Arizona (-3.5) and San Francisco both lost.

St. Louis starter Kip Wells, who came into the game with a 1-7, 6.51 record, mostly baffled the Dodgers who finished the game with seven hits, although they left nine on base. But the Redbirds had a dozen hits and left 10, thanks to the remarkable L.A. bullpen.

It looked for a moment that hot-hitting Rafael Furcal might just add another four-hit game to his resume when he doubled in his first at-bat to extend his hot streak to hits in 15 of 17 at-bats. However, he slipped back to "human" and went 1-for-4 with a walk and run.

Takashi Saito, the fourth member out of the bullpen called upon to save Randy Wolf's fifth win, converted his 13th save and now has 23 in a row dating to last season.

After a leadoff infield single by Juan Encarnacion, in the ninth, Saito struck out Albert Pujols looking, then retired Scott Rolen and Scott Spiezio to end the game.

Betemit opened the season at third base but quickly went flat and the Dodgers called young Andy LaRoche from Las Vegas who has excelled at the position. Little kept pushing Betemit up to the plate and the 26-year-old finally responded, smacking his first pinch-hit homer in Atlanta. He now has three dingers and a double with six RBI off the bench and a .800 average off the bench.

Betemit becomes just the ninth Dodger in franchise history with three or more pinch-hit homers in a season, joining Dave Hansen, Johnny Frederick, Lee Lacy, Billy Ashley, Jay Johnstone, Jose Morales, Bill Skowron, Robin Ventura and Olmedo Saenz (twice).

Since LaRoche arrived in Los Angeles on May 5, Betemit is 7-for-16 (.438) with four homers, two doubles and seven RBIs, while LaRoche is 6-for-23 with no homers and three RBIs but has a dozen walks and a .514 on-base percentage.

"I wasn't sure when I came up how he would be, but he's been awesome," LaRoche told Ken Gurnick of "He's been nothing but nice to me. That's great class."

Starter Randy Wolf struggled in the third inning of a 1-1 game. His wild pitch and an ensuing wild throw to the plate by catcher Russell Martin cost two runs and gave the Cardinals a 3-1 edge. Wolf, who allowed only six hits and struck out seven over his five innings of work, left after 89 pitches with the lead, thanks to the home run.

Spiezio singled to center field off reliever Joe Beimel with two outs in the seventh to score Scott Rolen, the run being charged to Chin-hui Tsao, and cut the lead to 5-4, but the Broxton and Saito put an end to that quickly,

After an off day today, the Dodgers travel south to play the Angeles and Little has a delicious decision to make as to the designated hitter used. Olmedo Sanez and Betemit can go right-left depending on the Anaheim pitcher.

But the Dodger manager will exercise his patience again and let the situation dictate his move.

The Dodgers open Interleague Play with Brad Penny (5-0, 1.39 ERA) who will be opposed by Carlos Santana (2-5, 5.51).
 Score by innings
St. Louis	003 000 100-4
Los Angeles	100 130 00x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  1  1  0  .295	
Pierre cf	5  0  1  1  .278
Garciaparra 1b	3  0  1  1  .292
Kent 2b	        3  0  0  0  .294
Gonzalez lf	3  0  0  0  .265
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
Martin c	4  0  1  0  .319
Ethier rf	3  2  1  0  .283
Wolf p	        1  0  0  0  .118
 Betemit ph	1  1  1  3  .194
 Tsao p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Beimel p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Clark lf	1  0  1  0  .268
   Totals	31 5  7 5
   St. Louis	39 4 12 2

 Error- Martin (5). 2B- Furcal (8), Ethier (7).
HR- Betemit (4), RBI- Garciaparra (26), Betemit
3 (13), Pierre (10). S- Wolf. SB- Martin (7).
LOB- Los Angeles 9, St. Louis 10.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Wolf (5-3)	5.0  6  3-2  1  7  3.91
Tsao	        1.2  3  1-1  0  3  3.06
Beimel	        0.1  1  0-0  0  0  3.72
Broxton	        1.0  1  0-0  0  0  1.17
Saito (sv 13)	1.0  1  0-0  0  1  1.42
 WP- Wolf. HBP- by Wolf 1. T- 3:20.
Att- 38,252.
Dodger Blue Notes-- According to coach Manny Mota, Furcal has cut down his swing, a move that seems responsible for the record-setting hit streak that allowed him to pick up nearly 100 points on his batting average over a 10-day period. "He's more patient at the plate and more disciplined," Mota told Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News. "He's not trying to hit it out of the ballpark, he's just trying to make good contact and put the ball in play. ... He's cutting it down, period." ...Hong-Chih Kuo became the 12th pitcher on the roster when he was recalled from Las Vegas but arrived at game time. He entered in the sixth inning and was up by the Cardinals. Little said, "He got off the plane at 6:30 p.m. and rushed over to the ballpark to be available. ... We're not going to judge his abilities on one-third of an inning." ...Pitcher Jason Schmidt (inflamed right shoulder) threw a 50-pitch bullpen session Tuesday in which he threw all of his pitches and felt no pain. ...With his Monday night homer, Jeff Kent became the 16th player in Major League history to register 350 homers and 500 doubles in his career and the third to have played for the Dodgers, joining Eddie Murray (504 homers, 560 doubles) and Frank Robinson (586 homers, 528 doubles). Luis Gonzalez could join the exclusive club later this season, as he has 335 homers and 551 doubles. Kent is tied with Chili Davis for 74th on the all-time home run list, one behind St. Louis' Jim Edmonds and Dick Allen.