Braves 3, Dodgers 1

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Gary Sheffield is determined to help get the Atlanta Braves back into the postseason. And if he should beat the Los Angeles Dodgers with a home run along the way, so be it.

Sheffield hit a tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning, and Russ Ortiz outpitched Kazuhisa Ishii as the Braves beat Sheffield’s former team 3-1 Tuesday night.

Sheffield drove a 2-1 pitch from Paul Quantrill (0-2) to left-center for his ninth home run—and the first allowed by Quantrill after 78 2-3 innings.

“In that situation, I’m going to be patient. And if I see something over the plate, I’ll be aggressive,” said Sheffield, who has chosen not to rehash his history with the Dodgers.

“All I was thinking about rounding the bases was that we had a chance to win this game and we had a chance to get the ball to (John) Smoltz. That’s it.”

Andruw Jones singled one out later, stole second and went to third on catcher Paul Lo Duca’s throwing error. Robert Fick followed with an RBI single for Atlanta’s third run.

“I haven’t thrown the ball the way I’m capable of the last three or four outings,” Quantrill said. “I haven’t hit spots and I haven’t been myself. It was a bad pitch to Sheffield, one you’d expect to be hammered by good hitters.”

Sheffield’s homer was his 16th against the Dodgers, who traded the then-disgruntled outfielder to the Braves in January 2002 for Brian Jordan and Odalis Perez.

Smoltz pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 16th save in 17 chances. The Braves have won the last 70 games in which Smoltz has pitched, a major league record.

“He’s got all the confidence in the world and he’s a proven winner,” Dodgers leadoff hitter Dave Roberts said.

“And obviously, those numbers don’t lie. When he comes into a game, they win—and it’s basically automatic. But you can’t let that get the best of you mentally. The important thing is to have the lead in the ninth inning.”

The Braves are 23-4 after losing eight of their first 12. It’s their best 27-game stretch since 1954—the franchise’s second year in Milwaukee. The NL East leaders have won 11 of their last 12 road games, and have a 3.19 ERA since their poor start.

Ortiz (5-2) gave up one run and four hits in eight innings, winning his fourth straight decision over five starts. He struck out three and walked two.

The right-hander is 11-2 in his last 15 regular-season outings. He also won two games against the Braves in the playoffs, and was acquired from the Giants for pitchers Damian Moss and Manuel Mateo in December.

“I think I’ve shown that I could pitch in pressure situations, and maybe that was one of the factors,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz took a one-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the sixth. He retired 14 consecutive batters before issuing a one-out walk to Roberts, who stole second and scored on Lo Duca’s single up the middle.

Roberts, who entered 1-for-15 lifetime against Ortiz, had the Dodgers’ only other hit to that point—a bunt single in the first. Roberts leads the majors with 10 bunt hits.

The Dodgers threatened in the seventh when Alex Cora singled with two outs and stole second despite a pitchout. Shortstop Rafael Furcal made a diving stop of Cesar Izturis’ ground single in the hole to prevent a run, and Cora was stranded at third when Ortiz retired pinch-hitter Daryle Ward on a hard comebacker.

The Braves, who won for the 15th straight time when scoring first, got on the board in the third after one-out singles by Furcal and Marcus Giles. They took off on a double-steal, and Ishii bounced a pitch in the dirt to Sheffield that caromed off Lo Duca’s glove as Furcal came all the way around to score.

Ishii allowed a run and three hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking five. The left-hander’s only other start against the Braves was last Aug. 25 at Dodger Stadium, when he lasted one inning and allowed five runs onhomers by Javy Lopez and Chipper Jones.

Notes

The Dodgers placed LHP Troy Brohawn on the 15-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his rotator cuff, and promoted LHP Steve Colyer from Triple-A Las Vegas. … Fick was forced to break in a new 1B mitt. The one he has used since spring training was swiped from him after Monday night’s game while hewas signing autographs near the dugout.

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