The Atlanta Braves’ troubled rotation appears to be getting back on track.
With spring training injuries to starters Mike Hampton and Paul Byrd leaving the Braves’ rotation depleted, Atlanta limped out to a 4-8 start. The Braves were outscored 72-17 in their first eight losses while posting an NL-worst 6.39 ERA.
Bolstered by Greg Maddux’s return to form following a dismal start and the acquisition of veteran right-hander Shane Reynolds, the Braves have snapped back into form over the last week, winning six of their last seven. They allowed more than four runs only once in that span.
Ortiz, however, has continued to struggle.
The right-hander has been tagged for 11 runs—nine earned—and 13 hits over 9 1-3 innings in his last two outings. He surrendered a career-high eight walks in the Braves’ 14-8, 10-inning victory over Montreal in Puerto Rico on Thursday.
On Sunday, Reynolds allowed one run and two hits over 7 1-3 innings as the Braves took the rubber game of their series with Philadelphia 2-1.
Not counting the two starts made by Reynolds, Atlanta starters are 4-8 with a 5.48 ERA. That includes Hampton’s 4-0 loss to Philadelphia in his season debut Saturday.
St. Louis leads the NL with a .295 batting average, but was held to just five hits in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Arizona.
The Cardinals also could be without one of the key members of their offense for part of this series as they await word from the league on how long Tino Martinez will be suspended for inciting a bench-clearing brawl Sunday.
Arizona pitcher Miguel Batista hit Martinez in the shoulder blade with a pitch, then stared at the St. Louis first baseman as he trotted to first. One batter later after being forced out at second, Martinez charged the mound and Batista threw the ball at him and missed.
“When you drill somebody and you stare at him like he stared, that is so unprofessional and so intentional-looking that we’ll see how major league baseball handles it,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
“That was brutal.”
The Braves’ offense, on the other hand, may welcome back one of its stars to the lineup. Chipper Jones sat out Sunday due to a sprained shoulder and needed a cortisone shot, but was hoping to return following Monday’s off day.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 2nd place, 2 GB, NL Central. Braves - 2nd place (tied), 1 GB, NL East.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Garrett Stephenson (1-1, 6.06 ERA). Since winning his season debut at Busch Stadium, Stephenson has been mediocre in two road starts. He allowed 10 runs and 15 hits over 10 innings in Cardinals losses at Milwaukee and Colorado, respectively. The right-hander is 4-4 with a 3.03 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves, though he did not face them last season.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ortiz (1-2, 4.84 ERA). Ortiz may be happy to be back at Turner Field. Before struggling in his last two starts—both on the road—Ortiz went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first two starts at home. He is 1-3 with a 5.13 ERA lifetime against the Cardinals.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Jim Edmonds, .444 avg.; Scott Rolen, 5 HRs and 15 RBIs; Rolen and Edgar Renteria, 15 runs; four tied with 1 SB. Braves - Marcus Giles, .350 avg.; Andruw Jones, 5 HRs and 17 RBIs; Gary Sheffield, 17 runs; Sheffield and Furcal, 4 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: Braves, 5-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - St. Louis managed only 13 runs in six games against Atlanta last year. … CF Edmonds went 1-for-17 against Braves pitching in 2002. … 1B Martinez has hit safely in nine straight games, going 14-for-35 (.400). Braves - LF Chipper Jones hit .421 (8-for-19) with four homers and 10 RBIs against the Cards last season. … RF Sheffield had a 16-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, but has still reached base in every game this season. … C Javy Lopez has been out since Saturday with a hamstring injury but could return during this series.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 5-4 on the road; Braves - 5-5 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Jason Isringhausen (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (pelvis), 15-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Braves - C Lopez (hamstring), day-to-day; INF Robert Fick (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL.