For the first time in 12 years, pitching is not the backbone of the Atlanta Braves’ run toward a division title.
Save for Russ Ortiz.
Atlanta’s ace will try to become the first National League pitcher to get to 14 wins as the Braves finish a two-game series with the visiting Florida Marlins.
Ortiz has won six straight starts, most recently allowing three earned runs and four hits over five innings in a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday.
The Braves have the best record in baseball and are driving toward a 12th straight division crown mostly because they have the most proficient offense in the league. They have hit a league-leading 149 home runs and are ranked second in the NL with a .279 team batting average and are third with 556 runs scored.
Take away Ortiz’s 13-4 record and the Braves’ rotation is a collective 30-21. Atlanta has a team ERA of 4.18, good enough for only eighth in the NL.
“You’ve got to like everything about Russ,” Braves manager Cox said. “He’s a bulldog and a great kid. He’s another one of those guys who prepares for everything.”
Ortiz says he doesn’t spend much time daydreaming about a 20-win season or winning a Cy Young Award. He just wants to help the Braves play well into October.
“I don’t even think about it,” Ortiz said of his personal stats. “I’m more concerned with coming out here and giving us a chance to win every game. That’s what I strive for.”
Mike Mordecai hit his first home run in nearly two years—a pinch-hit shot in the 12th inning—to give the Marlins a 5-4 win on Wednesday.
Florida has won three straight and five of seven. Atlanta has won 14 of 17.
STANDINGS: Marlins - 3rd place, 13 1/2 GB, NL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Brad Penny (8-7, 4.26 ERA). Penny gave up just one unearned run and four hits over eight innings in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. He is 5-2 with a 4.71 ERA in five career starts against Atlanta.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ortiz (13-4, 3.58 ERA). In nine career starts against Florida, he is 4-3 with a 2.82 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .320 avg. and 66 runs; Mike Lowell, 28 HRs and 81 RBIs; Juan Pierre, 46 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .325 avg., 75 RBIs and 79 runs; Javy Lopez, 26 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 14 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Marlins, 6-5.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - RHP Braden Looper blew his fourth save in 21 chances on Wednesday. … 2B Castillo is 7-for-10 with four runs scored in his last two games. … OF Miguel Cabrera was back in the lineup Wednesday after getting the night of Tuesday. He went 2-for-5 with a run, snapping a 6-for-36 (.167) slump. … The Marlins have not lost consecutive games on the road since dropping six straight from May 16-22. Braves - LF Chipper Jones is 10-for-21 (.476) with three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs all-time against RHP Penny. … SS Furcal is batting just .203 (38-for-187) with 24 strikeouts since June 1. Heading into Wednesday’s game, he had committed a major league-high 23 errors, just four shy of his career high, set last season. … Atlanta’s record is its best in franchise history through 100 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 25-27 on the road; Braves - 35-15 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - RHP Kevin Olsen (concussion), 15-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (arm), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL. Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL.