Russ Ortiz looks to win his third straight start and help the Atlanta Braves avert an embarrassing series loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the finale of a three-game interleague series at Tropicana Field.
Ortiz, acquired from defending NL champion San Francisco this past offseason, has won eight of his last 10 decisions. On Tuesday, he limited Philadelphia to three runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, pitching the Braves to a 5-3 victory.
Lopez walked five batters and labored through the first three innings, throwing 66 pitches. But he settled down thereafter.
“For whatever reason, I’ve always had trouble with the timing of my delivery,” Ortiz said. “Once I figure it out, I’m able to throw what I want to.”
The Braves steamed past the Devil Rays 8-2 on Friday to become the NL’s first 50-win team, but Tampa Bay got its revenge Saturday.
Damian Rolls drove in three runs as the Devil Rays stopped a four-game losing streak with a 9-7 victory over Atlanta. Tampa Bay won for just the third time in 17 interleague games this season, and improved to 5-25 in June.
Rolls hadn’t been much of an offensive threat until this homestand, which began with a four-game series against the New York Yankees. He homered twice off Roger Clemens last Monday and is 10-for-23 with three homers, four doubles and 10 RBIs in his last six games.
The Devil Rays have not won consecutive games since May 15-16.
The Braves have dropped three of their last four.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Devil Rays - 5th place, 23 1/2 GB, AL East.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ortiz (9-4, 3.61 ERA). Ortiz tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, in his only previous outing against Tampa Bay. He is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in seven road starts this year.
DEVIL RAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Jorge Sosa (1-5, 5.57 ERA). Sosa will be making his first start since May 4, when he yielded four runs and nine hits in seven innings of a 7-3 loss at Detroit. The right-hander has just one victory in five starts this year, an 8-7 victory at Baltimore on April 8, when he tossed five scoreless innings. Sosa is making his first appearance against the Braves.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Gary Sheffield, .331 avg., 64 RBIs and 66 runs; Javy Lopez, 23 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 13 SBs. Devil Rays - Rocco Baldelli, .314 avg.; Aubrey Huff, 15 HRs, 45 RBIs and 45 runs; Carl Crawford, 19 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Braves - 9-5. Devil Rays - 3-14.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - C Lopez has 29 RBIs in his last 25 games. … The Braves are trying to avoid their third straight road series loss. … OF Chipper Jones is 15-for-36 with five homers and 11 RBIs all-time at Tropicana Field. Devil Rays - Since May 17, RHPs Jeremi Gonzalez and Victor Zambrano are 7-6. The rest of Tampa Bay’s starters are a combined 1-13. … A victory Sunday would give the Devil Rays their first series win since they took two of three at Baltimore May 16-18. They are 0-11-1 in series since. … OF Ben Grieve is 3-for-10 with two homers and four RBIs in his career against RHP Ortiz.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 23-16 on the road; Devil Rays - 15-25 at home.