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Dodgers’ Win Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Times Staff Writer

Joe Beimel lives in Cranberry Township, Pa., a small town about 20 minutes outside Pittsburgh. The summer calendar there features a composting class, a fishing derby and a concert by the Pittsburgh Banjo Club.

In baseball, it’s Pirates country. Beimel grew up a few fungoes down the road. The Pirates were pretty good back then, so Beimel would head into the big city to catch a game. One summer, on autograph day, he waited in a long line. Finally, he got to the front, and Barry Bonds signed, with a smile.

“I got his rookie card signed,” Beimel said. “I’ve still got it.”

The baseball card came to life Saturday, and Beimel did not back down. With the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base in the seventh inning, Beimel got Bonds to ground out, the key play in the Dodgers’ 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

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Brad Penny became the National League’s first 13-game winner -- barely beating Arizona’s Brandon Webb, who won his 13th Saturday night -- Wilson Betemit hit the home run that put the Dodgers ahead for good, and Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito closed out the Giants with an inning apiece of scoreless relief.

But, as the Dodgers won for the 14th time in 15 games, Beimel spent a rare moment on center stage, with his childhood idol as his foil.

Nothing new there, really. In an otherwise anonymous career, Beimel has faced Bonds nine times and given up one hit -- a home run, of course -- and only two walks.

“I grew up watching him,” Beimel said. “I always told myself I’d never pitch around him.”

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With two on and two out in the seventh inning, the Dodgers led, 6-5. If Beimel could get Bonds, the Dodgers could hand that one-run lead to Broxton and Saito.

Beimel said he did not consider pitching around Bonds.

“He’s just another hitter,” Beimel said. “Let’s face it. He’s not having a great year. When it comes down to it, I’d rather take a chance with him than let [Moises] Alou beat me.”

The Dodgers shifted the infield, and Bonds grounded to shortstop Rafael Furcal, who had moved to the right-field side of second base. Threat averted.

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But, Joe, just another hitter?

“I have all the respect for him in the world,” Beimel said. “I feel he’s one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. But when it comes down to it, I’d rather face him than go up against somebody who’s put up better numbers.”

In four at-bats, Bonds had one hit -- a double -- and no walks. He’s batting .248 with 15 home runs, one in the last 23 days.

“I challenge him a lot more than I would have two years ago,” Penny said of Bonds, “especially with people on base.”

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Penny gave back a 3-0 lead in one inning and a 4-3 lead in the next, but Betemit rescued him by hitting his 13th home run of the season and fourth in 13 games for the Dodgers.

Although the Dodgers are now juggling too many infielders in too few spots, Manager Grady Little said Betemit would get regular playing time at third base. Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent did not start Saturday; Little said he wanted to ease both back after stints on the disabled list.

And Jason Repko, something of a forgotten man in the outfield, came off the bench in a double switch and made a game-saving play in the ninth inning, crashing into the center-field fence to rob Steve Finley of an extra-base hit that could have tied the score.

However, although center fielder Kenny Lofton has struggled defensively, Little said he does not consider Lofton a defensive liability and had no plan to use Repko as a regular defensive replacement for him.

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The crowd cheered Repko, and booed Bonds, and that made Beimel feel at home. In Pittsburgh, he said, Bonds is remembered less as the guy who led the Pirates to their last three playoff berths and more as the guy who left town for the big bucks of free agency.

“I don’t think they like him at all,” Beimel said. “It’s about the same as when he comes in here. A lot of people show up to boo him.”


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