Ortiz pitched a three-hitter in a 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins on Friday, becoming a 20-game winner for the first time in his career while helping the Braves clinch their 12th straight division title. The shutout was the second of Ortiz’s career.
“This turned out to be a real special night,” he said. “This has got to be the best game I’ve thrown.”
The win snapped a frustrating four-start slump for Ortiz, during which he went 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA.
“It’s no secret that I wasn’t pitching well the last four or so starts,” said Ortiz, whose previous career high for wins was 18, set in 1999 with San Francisco. “It was because I was getting behind and making mistakes. Tonight I just went out and focused on hitting my spots.”
“It almost got to a point over the past four starts to where I was thinking, ‘I just want to pitch a good ballgame and not worry about the numbers,’ But at the same time, it was in the back of my mind, because it’s a milestone number for all starting pitchers.”
The Braves beat the Expos 2-0 on Tuesday for their fourth win in six games.
Gray Sheffield doubled and knocked in his 128th run, breaking the franchise record set in 1966 by Hank Aaron. Rafael Furcal went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Braves.
Manager Bobby Cox served the first game of the two-game suspension for excessive arguing during a Sept. 11 game against Philadelphia.
The Braves have one more win and one more loss than the San Francisco Giants in the race for home-field advantage in the NL playoffs.
STANDINGS: Expos - 4th place, 17 GB, NL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Zach Day (9-7, 3.87 ERA). Day gave up one earned run and five hits in six innings of Friday’s 7-1 win over the New York Mets—his second straight victory and fifth in eight decisions. The 25-year-old righty is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA in five career appearances, including two starts, against the Braves.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Ortiz (20-7, 3.91 ERA). Ortiz 5-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 11 career starts against the Expos.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Expos - Vidro, .312 avg.; Vladimir Guerrero, 25 HRs; Guerrero and Orlando Cabrera, 79 RBIs; Cabrera, 94 runs and 24 SBs. Braves - Sheffield, .328 avg. and 128 RBIs; Javy Lopez, 42 HRs; Furcal, 128 runs and 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 11-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Expos - Montreal needs one win to clinch its second straight winning season. The Expos went 83-79 last year, ending a streak of five straight losing seasons. … The Expos have averaged just 3.2 runs per game over their last five. … RHP Day is 4-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 10 starts on the road this season. Braves - RHP John Smoltz, who missed nearly a month because of tendinitis in his right elbow, pitched for the second night in a row, striking out all three batters in the ninth for his 45th save in 48 chances, and first since Aug. 23. … 3B Vinny Castilla sat out his second straight game with a sore middle finger on his right hand. … CF Andruw Jones was left out of Tuesday’s starting lineup so he could rest, but he flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Expos - 29-48 on the road; Braves - 54-26 at home.
INJURIES: Expos - RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Dan Smith (elbow), 60-day DL; INF Fernando Tatis (chest), 60-day DL. Braves - OF Damon Hollins (thumb), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 60-day DL; 3B Castilla (finger), day-to-day.