ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves' fans, excited in a way they haven't been since 1982, raucously booed Darryl Strawberry, and they taunted him by derisively chanting "Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl." The only thing the fans couldn't do was throw the ball past Strawberry. Neither could Tom Glavine, the Braves' No. 1 pitcher.
Strawberry, responding to the biggest challenge of his first year with Los Angeles, had a bat -- or feet -- in each of the first four runs the Dodgers scored last night, as they defeated Atlanta, 5-2, and leapfrogged back into first place in the National League West.
The Braves, who had won seven straight, slipped a half-game behind the Dodgers, falling out of first place after three days there.
This was the first game of the first of a pair of nTC consecutive-weekend three-game series between the contenders, and it was as dramatic as a pennant-race game should be. And in an irony too painful for most of the crowd of 45,769 to bear, Strawberry was at once the villain and the hero.
"Darryl was awesome, outstanding," Tom Lasorda, the Dodgers' manager, said after Strawberry registered his first four-hit game since May 1988, when he played for the New York Mets. "What a performance. You saw the real Darryl Strawberry."
Bob Ojeda, a Los Angeles pitcher who also played with Strawberry in New York, saluted the Atlanta fans for their performance, saying that they "ought to be proud of themselves." But, he added, "Darryl thrives on it."
In the space of seven innings, Strawberry lashed three hits, which was one more than he had managed in 22 previous times at bat against Glavine.
Strawberry, whose bat has become animated in the second half of the season, singled home a run in the first inning for a 1-0 lead and hit his 24th home run in the sixth that tied the game, 2-2.
Then in the seventh, he slapped a single to left field that moved Mike Sharperson to third base, from where he scored the tie-breaking run on Eddie Murray's fly to deep left. Strawberry himself raced home with the fourth run, as Kal Daniels lined a double to right-center.
"I played in New York for eight seasons," Strawberry said, discussing the fans' treatment of him. "It doesn't bother me. It's more of a motivating factor for me. I get excited. It's part of baseball. More players should realize the fans are part of the game. They can be an inspiration to you."
Glavine, an 18-game winner who had a league-low 2.32 ERA, allowed one other run, Juan Samuel's one-out home run in the seventh, after which he departed, headed for his 10th loss. In three previous starts against the Dodgers this season, Glavine permitted only two runs in 26 innings.
Mike Morgan, trying for his first better-than-.500 record in a 10-year career, gained his 12th victory against nine defeats.
David Justice drove in both of the Braves' runs with a first-inning sacrifice fly and a fourth-inning home run, his fifth in the past six games.
Strawberry, who added a single against Randy St. Claire in the ninth, is hitting .363 in his past 29 games, slugging eight home runs and driving in 37 runs.