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A Few Boos Aren't Scary to Sheffield

Ex-Dodger answers unhappy L.A. fans by hitting tiebreaking home run off Quantrill in the eighth inning of Braves' 3-1 victory.

May 14, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Keep booing Gary Sheffield, Dodger fans, and maybe the Atlanta Brave right fielder will hit for the cycle or smash three home runs in tonight's series finale in Dodger Stadium.

Sheffield claims he gets no extra rise from playing the Dodgers, the team that traded the controversial slugger to the Braves before the 2002 season, but his rising numbers against them seem to indicate otherwise.

The subject of fan derision every time he steps to the plate in Los Angeles, Sheffield homered to left-center off reliever Paul Quantrill to open the eighth inning Tuesday night, sparking a two-run rally that broke a tie and lifted the Braves to a 3-1 victory before a crowd of 31,021.

"They told me a long time ago, players like Kirby Puckett and Dave Parker, that depending on how loud the boos are, it shows you've arrived," Sheffield said. "Mine are pretty loud, and [teammate] Chipper Jones gets the same thing, so I just have to take it as a compliment."

The win improved Atlanta to 23-4 over the last 27 games. In eight games against the Dodgers since he was traded for outfielder Brian Jordan and pitcher Odalis Perez, Sheffield is batting .286 (eight for 28) with three home runs and nine runs batted in.

"He's on a mission coming back here," Dodger first baseman Fred McGriff said. "I'm sure deep down, no matter what he says, he wants to do well here."

Atlanta right-hander Russ Ortiz threw eight strong innings, giving up one run and four hits, to improve to 5-2, and closer John Smoltz pitched a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 16th save.

But the game turned on one swing of the bat by Sheffield in the eighth.

With the score tied, 1-1, and a 2-and-1 count on Sheffield, Quantrill tried to run a sinker down and in to Atlanta's No. 3 hitter. The pitch was down, but not in enough, and Sheffield launched it into the pavilion for his eighth homer of the season.

Sheffield called the offering "a good pitch," but Quantrill begged to differ. "It was a terrible pitch," the right-hander said. "You probably couldn't draw a spot or a zone where he could hit the ball better. It was a physical mistake that cost us dearly."

The mistake was a rarity for Quantrill, who gave up only one home run in 94 previous innings since joining the Dodgers at the start of 2002 and gave up no earned runs in his last 13 2/3 innings, a span of 16 outings.

The homer gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead, and the Braves added an insurance run when Andruw Jones singled, stole second, took third on catcher Paul Lo Duca's throwing error and scored on Robert Fick's single.

The Dodgers had tied the score in the sixth when Dave Roberts drew a one-out walk and stole second, even though replays showed Roberts was out. Lo Duca then grounded a single up the middle to score Roberts and make it 1-1.

The Dodgers threatened in the seventh when Alex Cora singled with two out and took second on a delayed steal. Cesar Izturis hit a grounder that appeared headed for left field, but shortstop Rafael Furcal made a spectacular diving stop. Izturis was safe, but Furcal's stop saved the go-ahead run from scoring. Ortiz then retired pinch-hitter Daryle Ward.

Roberts opened the first with a bunt single, but the Dodgers didn't get another hit until Lo Duca's RBI single in the sixth. The Braves scored their first run on the sheer speed and instincts of Furcal, who singled to left to open the third and took second on Marcus Giles' single to center. With Sheffield at the plate, Furcal and Giles took off on a double steal.

When starter Kazuhisa Ishii's wild pitch bounced wide of the plate and to the backstop, Furcal flew around third with no hesitation. Lo Duca retrieved the ball but double-clutched before throwing to Ishii at the plate, and Furcal was safe.

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