Braves 6, Astros 3
“He’s not playing tomorrow,” Castilla joked.
“Yeah, I’m going to sit on it,” Giles said with a smile.
No chance. Giles went 5-for-5 to set an Atlanta record for consecutive hits as the Braves defeated the Houston Astros 6-3 Tuesday night. He’ll certainly be in the lineup Wednesday, hoping to tie the mark held by 10 players and last done by Cincinnati’s Bip Roberts in 1992.
“It’s not going to be on my mind at all,” Giles said, then corrected himself for reporters. “That’s a lie. Now that you’re all talking about it, it will be on my mind. But I’m going to go with the same approach as I have the last few days. It’s working for me.”
On a night of streaks, Russ Ortiz stretched his winning streak to a career-high eight games and joined Toronto’s Roy Halladay as the only 15-game winners in the majors. For good measure, Ortiz also hit a homer in a matchup of division leaders.
“My expectations are to win every ballgame or at least give us a chance to win every ballgame,” he said. “I’m proud that I’ve been able to do my job.”
Gary Sheffield hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth that put the Braves ahead for good, and added an RBI single in the eighth.
But everyone was talking about Giles. The second baseman set a career high with five singles—after getting four hits in each of the previous two games. He is 13-for-15 over the last three days, extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games and raised his batting average to .320.
“I’m seeing the ball real good right now,” said Giles, who was voted to his first All-Star game but couldn’t play because of a concussion. “I’m using my hands more than my lower half.”
Ortiz (15-4) allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings, and the Braves’ beleaguered bullpen held the Astros scoreless the rest of the way. John Smoltz worked a perfect ninth for his 39th save in 42 chances.
Giles broke Jeff Blauser’s Atlanta record of eight straight hits. Buddy Hassett, who holds the franchise record, is among those sharing the NL mark after stringing together 10 in a row for the Boston Braves in 1940.
Atlanta tied a season high with 18 hits—its sixth straight game in double figures.
“They’re a very aggressive team,” said Houston reliever Ricky Stone, who took the loss. “They’re ready to hit as soon as they step in the box.”
Houston starter Roy Oswalt left in the third after reinjuring his right groin, an injury that already has sent him to the disabled list twice this season. His final pitch was knocked into the left-field stands by Ortiz, tying the game 1-1.
“We’ll have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow,” manager Jimy Williams said. “He didn’t look right. Why jeopardize him when you can get another pitcher in.”
Ortiz homered for the second time this season and sixth time in his career.
“That’s one of those swings where I caught it right,” he said.
On the mound, the right-hander has won eight straight starts to eclipse the longest winning streak of his career, a seven-game run with the San Francisco Giants in 2000.
The three-game series could be a playoff preview. The Braves are running away with the NL East, while Houston is on top in the Central Division.
Houston evened the score in the fifth, taking advantage of third baseman Mark DeRosa’s second error of the night. With one out and runners at first and third, Craig Biggio hit a grounder that ricocheted off the third baseman’s shin.
DeRosa might have had other things on his mind. His wife gave birth to the couple’s first child on Monday.
The Braves went ahead for good in their half of the fifth. Giles singled to center—his third hit—and Sheffield followed with his 26th homer off Stone (5-4). Giles was in the middle of things again in the sixth, coming through with a two-out single that drove in DeRosa to make it 5-2.
Oswalt gave up five hits in two-plus innings, but his defense kept the Braves from scoring more than one run.
Atlanta put runners at first and third with no outs in the second, but Biggio leaped to snare Javy Lopez’s liner at second and right fielder Richard Hidalgo threw out Andruw Jones attempting to score from third on a fly ball, aninning-ending double play.
Ortiz also homered against Florida’s Carl Pavano in an April 12 game at Pro Player Stadium. … Two batters after giving up Sheffield’s homer, Stone threw a pitch that grazed Andruw Jones in the back. Home plate umpire Jerry Layne warned both benches and there were no further problems. … In addition to DeRosa’s two errors, Lopez had a throwing error and a passed ball. … The major league record for consecutive hits is 12, set by Pinky Higgins of BostonRed Sox in 1938 and tied by Detroit’s Walt Dropo in 1952.