Beltre hits league-leading 45th HR

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Steve Finley has gone from struggling to
streaking in three nights.

Finley drove in the go-ahead run for the third consecutive game,
hitting a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning to lead
the Los Angeles Dodgers over the St. Louis Cardinals 7-6 Friday
night in a matchup of division leaders.

"I love being in those situations," he said. "That's what
September baseball is all about. Every game is important right

Finley went 3-for-3 and is hitting .302 with nine homers and 32
RBI since the Dodgers acquired him from Arizona on July 31.

"Ever since he got here, he's been the man," left fielder
Jayson Werth said.

Adrian Beltre hit his major league-leading 45th homer, a
three-run drive that helped the Dodgers win their fourth straight
and increased their NL West lead to six games over San Francisco,
which lost 2-1 to Arizona.

"It was a fight to the end," St. Louis left fielder Reggie
Sanders said. "That's a team that's very hot right now."

The Cardinals, who swept the Dodgers at home last weekend,
retained a 17-game lead in the NL Central, although they lost for
the third time in four games.

"Tremendous game played like a playoff game," Dodgers manager
Jim Tracy said. "Finley had three more hits than he had in all of
St. Louis."

Finley sent an 0-2 pitch from Kiko Calero (1-1) into the
right-field pavilion, breaking a 5-all tie and scoring Cesar
Izturis, who doubled. It triggered a standing ovation from the
sellout crowd of 54,119.

"The pitch to Beltre and the pitch to Finley, what is that,
five runs?" St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "They're men,
not machines, they make mistakes. We didn't pitch well enough."

Finley homered twice in the Dodgers' 5-3 win over Arizona on
Thursday and drove in the go-ahead run in their victory against the
Diamondbacks on Wednesday, ending an 0-for-19 slump.

"I don't always get to pick and choose when you come through,"
he said. "I feel the same as I did before. I'm seeing the ball

Giovanni Carrara (5-2) threw one inning for the victory, and
Eric Gagne pitched 1 2-3 innings for his 39th save in 41 chances,
allowing a solo homer to Sanders.

"Gagne is throwing the ball extremely well in key situations
where we needed to drive in runs," Sanders said. "He did it
against Arizona and he did it against us. They used their pitchers
to keep us off-balance. It was a well-played game and they had the
last laugh."

Gagne inherited a runner at first with one out in the eighth,
then gave up a single to Tony Womack and a two-out walk to Albert
Pujols before retiring Marlon Anderson on a grounder.

"It's crunch time," Gagne said. "I don't care how many outs I
get. We're winning."

Scott Rolen drove in the Cardinals' first four runs before
leaving with a strained left knee in the fourth inning. He led off
the second with his 33rd home run, and a fan tossed the ball back.

He fouled a ball off his shin, then injured his calf on a double
in the third, which caused swelling in his leg, La Russa said.

Los Angeles responded in the bottom half with back-to-back
homers by Shawn Green and Werth for a 2-1 lead.

Rolen's three-run double in the third put St. Louis ahead and
chased Kazuhisa Ishii, but Beltre homered with two outs in the
bottom half. The crowd chanted "MVP! MVP!" as Beltre circled the

Sanders' sacrifice fly retied it at 5 in the fifth.

Game notes
About 3,500 fans showed up at Dodger Stadium on Friday to
buy playoff tickets. Walkup sales, besides telephone and Internet
orders, prompted a sellout of all three potential NL division
series home games. ... The Dodgers' remaining opponents for the
final 22 regular-season games are St. Louis, San Diego, Colorado
and San Francisco, which have a combined .547 winning percentage --
second-best in all three NL divisions. ... Beltre's 106 RBI are
the most by a Los Angeles third baseman since Ron Cey's 110 in
1977. ... Beltre is the sixth third baseman in major league history
with at least 45 homers in a season. The previous was Anaheim's
Troy Glaus with 47 in 2000.