Miami (79-73) at Atlanta (89-64)

Light Drizzle Currently: Atlanta, GA
Temp: 53° F
  • Game info: 7:35 pm EDT Fri Sep 24, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Atlanta Braves are on the brink of clinching their 13th straight division title. The World Series champion Florida Marlins are a long shot at best to make the playoffs.

That will be the scenario when the NL East rivals open a three-game series at Turner Field.

With Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Cincinnati, the Braves missed an opportunity to win yet another division crown. Philadelphia beat the second-place Marlins 9-8 in 10 innings on Thursday, reducing Atlanta’s magic number in the East to one.

Plastic covering over the lockers was quickly removed and cases of champagne were carted out before the Atlanta players entered the clubhouse after Thursday’s defeat.

The Braves, who knew about the Phillies-Marlins result before they left the field, are looking forward to clinching against Florida.

“I wouldn’t mind getting it done against the defending world champions,” Atlanta’s Chipper Jones said.

The Marlins, who made a surprising late-season run last year to capture the NL wild card and eventually their second World Series title, are seven games behind Chicago in the wild-card race with 10 games to play.

Making matters worse, Friday’s game will start a season-ending road trip for Florida.

“Our pride is at stake,” manager Jack McKeon said. “We are the defending world champions.”

While clinching is the top priority for Atlanta, the Braves would also like to see right-hander Russ Ortiz get on track.

Ortiz, who dropped a 3-0 decision to the Marlins on Sunday, has lost back-to-back starts and three of his last four decisions. Atlanta’s No. 1 starter in last year’s playoffs, Ortiz has allowed 22 homers this season, including 15 since Aug. 14.

“Really good pitchers give up a lot of home runs,” said Ortiz, who leads the team with 195 1-3 innings. “But they do it where it doesn’t always decide a ballgame.”

On Sunday, Ortiz gave up a two-run shot to Jeff Conine that snapped a sixth-inning scoreless tie. Prior to connecting, Conine had been 0-for-12 in his career against Ortiz.

Related Articles

Starting Pitchers

I. Valdez Mia vs. R. Ortiz LAD
14-9 Record 15-9
5.19 ERA 4.13
67 K 143
49 BB 112
1.48 WHIP 1.51