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Benard's huge 12th inning lifts Giants over Dodgers

4/14/2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- After two weeks of inactivity and a night
of false starts, Marvin Benard finally got the chance promised to
him by manager Felipe Alou.

Given the San Francisco Giants' uncannily charmed existence
these days, the seldom-used outfielder's two spectacular plays were
a fitting end to another dramatic victory in an 11-1 start.

Benard hit an RBI double off the wall in the 12th inning as the
Giants extended their best start in 65 years, beating the Los
Angeles Dodgers 5-4 on Sunday night.

Following a rainout Saturday, the Giants swept a three-game
series from their longtime rivals for the first time in San
Francisco since August 9-11, 1991 -- and Benard, who didn't have a
hit and hadn't played in the outfield all season before the 12th,
was the unlikely hero.

"I guess it was my turn,'' he said. "Everybody else has done
something for us.''

Benard had just three at-bats this season before entering the
game in a double switch before the 12th. A few minutes before his
big hit, Benard made a spectacular throw from right field to third
base, throwing out Todd Hundley to hurt Los Angeles' final rally.

Benard then became the latest star in their amazing start with a
long drive to right field against Andy Ashby (0-2). Benard's hit
easily scored Marquis Grissom, who also doubled, to end the 4½-hour
game.

"The ball slipped out of my hand,'' Benard said. "I didn't
even realize I had him until I heard everybody making noise. ...
(The hit) was lucky, too. If I'm not lucky, the wind knocks that
ball down and it gets caught.''

Benard, a veteran who's been booed regularly at Pacific Bell
Park for his struggles in recent years, nearly got into the game
twice earlier. He was recalled from the on-deck circle, and an
earlier double-switch in the ninth inning was canceled by Alou --
and both times, Benard went back to the dugout with a chuckle.

"A couple of years ago, I would have got mad,'' Benard said.
"But there's nothing I can do. I just have to wait my turn.''

From Alou's first day on the job during the winter, he promised
playing time to Benard -- but he didn't promise when it would come.

"I had a big talk with him after yesterday's rainout to
reinforce my trust in him,'' Alou said. "When I was named manager,
he was the first guy I talked to. He's a big-league guy, and he
showed it tonight.''

San Francisco remained on pace with the best starts of the New
York Giants, who went 12-1 in 1938 and 18-1 in 1918.

Both teams desperately wanted to win the series finale. Los
Angeles manager Jim Tracy used all seven pitchers in his bullpen
and every hitter on his bench, while Alou used five relievers and
four bench position players.

"I don't know that you could see much better pitching from two
good teams than you saw in this series,'' said Tracy, whose team
has the day off on Monday. "We took it as far as we could take it.
We went so deep in the game that we used all our resources to try
and win.''

In addition to their 12th-inning threat, the Dodgers also had
two runners on and nobody out in the 11th. But the Giants ended it
with a double play when Shawn Green struck out and catcher Yorvit
Torrealba threw out Dave Roberts at third base.

Jim Brower (2-0) pitched one inning for the win. J.T. Snow drove
in two runs for the Giants.

Daryle Ward drove in two runs for the Dodgers, whose offensive
struggles continued despite 14 hits. Los Angeles hasn't scored more
than five runs since opening day, and they had just seven in three
games against San Francisco.

"We have to start playing better,'' said Green, who went
3-for-5 with a double. "We're playing just good enough to lose
right now. We have to do a better job if we want to deal with those
guys. It's that simple.''

When it began, the game seemed likely to be a pitchers' duel
between Jason Schmidt and Kevin Brown. But neither hard-throwing
right-hander was in top form despite an extra day of rest following
Saturday's rainout.

Brown allowed one run in his first two starts this season, but
struggled with his control against the Giants. He walked five,
allowing six hits and four runs in five innings.

Schmidt wasn't much better, allowing nine hits, three walks and
four runs while striking out six in six innings. Neither pitcher
retired the side in order until Schmidt did it in the sixth.

Game notes
Umpire Mark Hirschbeck infuriated the Giants' fans with his
balls-and-strikes calls. They chanted "Go home Hirschbeck!''
several times in the late innings. ... Dodgers reliever Troy Brohawn retired Bonds for the third straight game, getting him on a
fly to left in the seventh. Bonds is hitless in nine career at-bats
against Brohawn, who was with the Giants last season. ... Ray Durham went 2-for-2 and scored the Giants' first run, but he left
in the fourth inning after straining his groin while running out a
bloop single. He said the injury wasn't serious.