Dodger center fielder Roger Cedeno stood in the on-deck circle Thursday night and heard a “Psssst.” He looked over his right shoulder. It was Brett Butler, sitting in the first row.
Cedeno walked to the railing and listened as Butler spoke. This was the man who tutored him all spring, always providing confidence. Now, Butler was telling Cedeno how to hit nasty left-hander Tom Glavine.
Cedeno stepped to the plate and, remembering the advice, moved a little closer to the plate. He then swung away with all his might, delivering not only his first career home run, but a huge lift for his team.
Cedeno’s three-run shot in the seventh inning provided the Dodgers with a dramatic 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in front of a paid crowd of 39,463 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
“I can’t believe it,” Cedeno said. “I run the bases but I can’t even feel them. I’m so happy because it was my first home run.
“I didn’t even know it was a home run until I see the umpire raise his hand. I don’t hit too many home runs, so it’s hard for me to know.”
As Cedeno crossed home plate, he was mobbed by his teammates. And there was Butler standing and cheering.
“He was the one who told me to get on top of the plate, make him pitch inside,” Cedeno said. “I just listened to him.”
Who would have thought it possible? Brett Butler, with only 54 career homers in 7,823 at-bats, teaching someone how to hit home runs?
It typified the Dodgers’ entire day, buoyed by the presence of Butler, who will undergo radiation treatments for cancer Monday.
The Dodgers started the game without catcher Mike Piazza in the lineup, facing a pitcher who had won his last six decisions, and going against the defending World Series champions in their own ballpark. They trailed, 3-0, by the third inning. By the fifth, Dodger starter Ismael Valdes had a blister and the Dodgers had only two hits.
Somehow, the Dodgers won, moving to within one game of the National League West-leading San Diego Padres, the first time since April 4 that they’ve closed to within one game.
“I always felt we could play with them,” second baseman Delino DeShields said of the Braves, “but we got to prove it. We got to show them we can play with them. And to win a game like this could carry us for a long time.
“Believe me, it will be remembered.”
“This is a big win for us, no doubt about it” said first baseman Eric Karros, who knocked in the Dodgers’ first two runs. “They have represented the National League the last few years. Whoever represents the National League has got to go through Atlanta.”
Said third baseman Mike Blowers, who had the game-tying single: “You don’t have to look at the banners. Everybody in baseball knows about Atlanta. You just know that coming in. They’re going to be throwing pitching at you, and more pitching at you.
“That’s why to get a win like this, to get a win against Tom Glavine, is huge for this team.
“I think we’re going to start playing like we should have been playing all along.”
Cedeno made it all possible, with the help, of course, of Butler, who first summoned Cedeno in the sixth inning, telling him to start crowding the plate to take away Glavine’s inside pitch.
DeShields led off the sixth with a single to right field, and Cedeno reached on an infield single. Raul Mondesi flied out to right, bringing up Karros.
Glavine tried to sneak a 2-2 changeup past the first baseman, but Karros slammed it off the base of the center-field fence for a two-run double. Blowers followed with a run-scoring single to left, and just like that, the score was tied, 3-3.
Cedeno, benched for three consecutive games last week, stepped to the plate in the seventh with one out and Juan Castro on second base and DeShields on first. He looked at the first pitch for a strike and, recalling Butler’s advice, moved a little closer to the plate.
The next pitch was an inside fastball. Cedeno swung with all of his might and the ball cleared the left-field wall.
That was all for Glavine (7-4), who has failed to beat the Dodgers in three starts this season.
Valdes (7-4), pitching with a blister in his middle finger, went six innings and turned the game over to the bullpen. The Braves got one hit off three Dodger relievers, with Todd Worrell closing out the ninth for his 18th save.