“I said in spring training he’d win 20,” the Atlanta Braves left fielder said, “and he’s well on his way.”
Already the major league leader in victories, Ortiz looks to establish a new career high with 19 wins as Atlanta opens a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
The right-hander, who was traded in December from San Francisco to Atlanta for left-hander Damian Moss and a minor leaguer, has emerged as one of the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award.
He matched his career high in victories with Sunday’s 12-6 win over Colorado. He allowed four runs and seven hits over 6 1-3 innings, striking out five and walking one.
Ortiz improved to 11-2 with a 3.13 ERA over his past 14 starts, but says he’s not thinking about winning the Cy Young or even reaching the 20-win plateau. Instead he continues to credit Atlanta’s hitters for his success.
“The offense has been great to me all season,” Ortiz said. “It makes my job easier to be able to just go out there and worry about my pitches and not whether the offense is going to score runs.”
The Pirates completed a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins with Thursday’s 5-0 win, shutting out the Marlins for the second straight game.
Wilson, who had a bases-loaded double that scored three and added a sacrifice fly, ran his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. He is batting .350 (20-for-57) during that stretch.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Pirates - 4th place, 8 GB, NL Central.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ortiz (18-5, 3.56 ERA). Ortiz has thrived in his career against Pittsburgh, going 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA in eight career appearances, including seven starts.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Salomon Torres (5-3, 4.43 ERA). Torres will come off the 15-day disabled list to make his first start since Aug. 1. The right-hander, who was sidelined with a strained right hamstring, was 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA over his three starts before the injury. Torres is coming off one of his worst outings of the season, allowing seven runs and five hits over five innings of Pittsburgh’s 12-11 win over Colorado on Aug. 1. Torres is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in seven career appearances against Atlanta, including two starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Sheffield, .331 avg., 108 RBIs and 110 runs; Sheffield and Javy Lopez, 34 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 22 SBs. Pirates - Jason Kendall, .317 avg. and 72 runs; Reggie Sanders, 29 HRs, 72 RBIs and 9 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - OF Sheffield needs one stolen base to become the 17th player with 300 homers and 200 steals. … C Lopez is hitting .387 (41-for-106) over his last 31 games with 11 homers and 32 RBIs. … The Braves placed RHP Kevin Gryboski on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis and recalled RHP Joe Dawley from Triple-A Richmond to replace him. Pirates - The Pirates’ 37 home runs in August are their highest monthly total since hitting 38 in August 1999. … The consecutive shutouts were the Pirates’ first since July 12-13, 2001, against Kansas City. … LHP Oliver Perez, obtained Tuesday from San Diego in the Brian Giles trade, will make his Pittsburgh debut Saturday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 39-27 on the road; Pirates - 31-36 at home.
INJURIES: Braves - RHP Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP John Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL; 1B Julio Franco (finger), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL. Pirates - RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL; IF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; IF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL.