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Closer saves second straight

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- In a breakout season, Cesar Izturis has been
a big contributor to the Dodgers' drive for their first division
title since 1995.

On Saturday night, he made his biggest contribution yet.

Izturis hit a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning,
Steve Finley homered for the fourth time in three games and Los
Angeles beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 for their fifth straight
victory.

"I would say the biggest difference in him is experience,"
Dodgers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "He's more disciplined,
he has a better approach and he's still learning. It's only his
third full year in the big leagues, so he's got a lot more to
learn. Hopefully, he keeps doing what he's doing."

David Ross led off the eighth with a bunt single against Julian
Tavarez. Cal Eldred (3-2) relieved and Jose Hernandez followed with
a grounder to second baseman Tony Womack, whose hurried flip to
Gold Glove shortstop Edgar Renteria was dropped for an error.

Both runners advanced on a passed ball by rookie Yadier Molina,
and Izturis drove a 3-1 pitch to center field to put the Dodgers
back in front and raise his average to .290.

"To me, the game turned on three straight innings that we
didn't get the leadoff man out," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
said. "That was more important than anything else that happened."

Reliever Scott Stewart (1-0) got the win, retiring one batter --
Jim Edmonds on a groundout to end the eighth after Larry Walker
snapped a 5-all tie with an RBI single off Mike Venafro.

Eric Gagne pitched a scoreless ninth, joining career saves
leader Lee Smith, Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman
and Robb Nen as the only pitchers with three consecutive 40-save
seasons.

In the second game of a series between division leaders, the
Dodgers maintained their six-game lead in the NL West over San
Francisco, which beat Arizona 5-3.

"We know we can beat anybody," said Gagne, who got his second
save over the Cardinals in two nights after St. Louis swept a
three-game set with the Dodgers at Busch Stadium last week. "It
doesn't matter if they beat us six in a row, we still believe we
can beat them if we just come out and play hard solid baseball."

Trailing 4-1 after Edmonds hit a three-run homer off Jeff Weaver
in the sixth inning, the Dodgers rallied in the bottom half against
Woody Williams.

Shawn Green singled with two outs, and slumping Milton Bradley --
dropped to sixth in the order for the first time this season -- was
grazed on the left knee with a breaking ball to load the bases.
Williams' next pitch struck Alex Cora on the right arm, forcing
home Jayson Werth.

Williams felt Bradley and Cora easily could have avoided getting
hit and he walked toward home plate to point that out to umpire
Charlie Reliford.

"I felt like I threw a good pitch to Cora and he leaned into
it," Williams said. "The rules of baseball say you've got to try
to get out of the way, but it's over and done with. It's just a
shame I let the ball go as far inside as I did. Charlie's a very
professional umpire and he let me have my say."

Los Angeles tied it 4-all in the seventh on Finley's two-out RBI
single against Tavarez, and Bradley followed with a hard hit ball
up the middle that Renteria smothered. But he couldn't get the
force at second on Green, and Finley scored the tying run.

"There's no level that we can't play on," Bradley said.
"They've been on such a high level for most of the year, so for us
to take a couple of ballgames from them -- especially the way we
came back and took this one, it's just a testament to this ballclub
and the confidence and belief that we have."

Finley gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the fourth when he drove a
first-pitch fastball to right-center, barely over the reach of
right fielder Walker with one out.

It was Finley's 33rd homer and 10th in 37 games since joining
Los Angeles in a trade with Arizona on July 31.

Womack and Walker beat out infield hits with two outs, and
Albert Pujols followed with a tying RBI single one pitch after
Weaver got a visit from pitching coach Jim Colborn. Two pitches
later, Edmonds homered to give St. Louis a 4-1 lead.

Edmonds' 41st homer left him one short of tying his career best
and two shy of matching the Cardinals' franchise record for
left-handed hitters, set by Hall of Famer Johnny Mize in 1940.

Game notes
John Mabry made his fifth start at third base this season
in place of NL RBI leader Scott Rolen, who sat out after fouling a
ball off his left shin and straining his calf during Friday night's
7-6 loss. ... Cora was plunked for the 16th time, tying the L.A.
Dodgers record set in 1965 by Lou Johnson and equaled last season
by Mike Kinkade. ... Williams allowed two runs and five hits in 5
2-3 innings, the first time in 16 starts that he did not go at
least six. ... Weaver allowed four runs and seven hits in seven
innings with six strikeouts and no walks.