Russ Ortiz will try to become the National League’s first 20-game winner, and help the Atlanta Braves slow down the Florida Marlins’ run toward the wild card as the teams open a four-game series at Turner Field.
The Braves clinched the NL East title thanks to the Marlins’ loss to Philadelphia on Thursday—Atlanta’s 12th consecutive division title.
While Ortiz is going for a milestone win, he is more concerned with regaining his effectiveness.
In his last start, he was tagged for seven earned runs in a season-low three-inning effort in an 8-3 loss at Florida on Saturday. The right-hander has seen his Cy Young Award chances falter thanks to a 1-2 record with a 9.00 ERA in his past four starts.
“I could care less about 20 wins,” Ortiz said. “I’m worried about winning the game and that’s it. If I start worrying that way, I start worrying about myself and that’s not what this game is all about.”
After dropping two of three games at Philadelphia that has their lead in the NL wild-card race cut to just a half-game over the Phillies, the Marlins will try to resume their winning ways against the Braves.
Florida had won five straight series before facing Philadelphia, and had a 3-0 lead in the series’ deciding game before falling.
“We had the lead, but just didn’t hold it. Twice. When you get a three-run lead, you’ve got to close them out,” Marlins’ skipper Jack McKeon said.
STANDINGS: Marlins - 2nd place, 10 1/2 GB, NL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Josh Beckett (8-7, 3.02 ERA). In his last start, Beckett allowed three runs and eight hits over seven innings, but did not figure in the Marlins’ 8-4 defeat to the Braves on Sunday. He is 2-3 with a 1.93 ERA in six career starts against Atlanta.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ortiz (19-7, 4.08 ERA). Ortiz is 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 11 career starts against the Marlins.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Marlins - Luis Castillo, .320 avg. and runs; Mike Lowell, 32 HRs and 105 RBIs; Juan Pierre, 61 SBs. Braves - Sheffield, .331 avg. and 122 RBIs; Javy Lopez, 41 HRs; Furcal, 125 runs and 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Marlins, 8-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Marlins - 3B Miguel Cabrera has three hits, including two homers, in five at-bats against Ortiz. … RHP Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in his last six starts. … SS Alex Gonzalez’s throwing error in the eighth inning of Friday’s defeat snapped a franchise-best nine straight games without a miscue. Braves - OF Andruw Jones has hit .278 (15-for-54) with four homers and 14 RBIs against the Marlins this season. … RHP Ortiz has surrendered 32 of the 100 runs scored against him in the first inning. … The Braves are the first team since the 1984 Red Sox to have three outfielders with at least 100 RBIs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Marlins - 36-41 on the road; Braves - 51-24 at home.
INJURIES: Marlins - 3B Mike Lowell (thumb), 15-day DL; LHP Armando Almanza (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 60-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Tim Spooneybarger (elbow), 60-day DL. Braves - OF Damon Hollins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Gryboski (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP John Smoltz (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 60-day DL.