Russ Ortiz has been Atlanta’s staff ace all season. Recently, he’s become nearly unhittable.
The right-hander will try to extend his six-game winning streak as the Braves conclude their three-game series with the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark.
Ortiz has not lost since June 20, going 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA in eight starts. He is just two victories shy of his longest career winning streak, set between June and July of last season, when he won a career-best 21 games.
Ortiz was named pitcher of the month for July, going 5-0 with a 1.67 ERA. Ortiz, Jaret Wirght and Mike Hampton combined to go 14-0 with a 1.87 ERA during July—the best month in the history of a team that once boasted a starting trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
“My job is to keep us in the game, and that’s what I’ve been doing lately,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz squared off against Roger Clemens on Tuesday, allowing just two runs and seven hits in seven innings of the Braves’ 3-2 loss without receiving a decision. He had his streak of 17 scoreless innings snapped in the sixth inning when Morgan Ensberg drove in Jeff Bagwell. Ortiz also allowed a homer to Craig Biggio in the seventh—the first blast he had allowed in 57 innings.
“That was the only ball that got away from me, and he happened to hit it out,” he said.
The Braves have been also been playing well. Atlanta is coming off a 6-2 win in the middle game of this series on Saturday, for its ninth win in 10 games and 17th in 22 since the All-Star break.
“For a couple months now, it’s just been great team wins every night,” second baseman Marcus Giles said. “It’s been anything from pitching to defense to hitting to timely hitting. It’s everything. I just can’t say enough about the ballclub. We’re playing good ball. I think it’s pretty obvious.”
Rafael Furcal went 3-for-5 with an RBI double and Chipper Jones drove in two runs for the Braves. Paul Byrd, who missed last season and part of this one with elbow problems, won his second straight start for the first time in nearly two years.
Quinton McCracken had a leadoff homer and sacrifice fly for the Diamondbacks, who dropped a franchise-record 42 games below .500 with their 22nd loss in 26 games.
“He’s been outstanding,” manager Al Pedrique said of McCracken. “He’s getting two, three hits every night. He’s playing hard. Running balls out. I’m very happy with McCracken.”