Braves 7, Cardinals 2

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Russ Ortiz refuses to get carried away by his outstanding season.

Ortiz worked into the ninth inning to become the second 16-game winner in the major leagues and the Atlanta Braves hit four home runs in a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night.

“Everything has gone so well that just keeping that consistency is the key,” Ortiz said. “Believe me, I know what’s ahead, but I don’t jump that far and let it get in my head because then I won’t be fully concentrating on the next game.”

Ortiz (16-5) allowed two runs on five hits in eight-plus innings, joining Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays as the top winners.

Ortiz needs two more wins to match his career high in 1999 with the Giants. He’s won nine of his last 10 and has never lost consecutive decisions, bouncing back in this one after a loss in his last start to the Dodgers.

“We had the hitting and made the plays,” manager Bobby Cox said. “And Russ did the rest.”

Gary Sheffield, Marcus Giles, Andruw Jones and Javy Lopez homered for the Braves, who lead the NL with 174.

“You get a pitch to hit, you want to drive it,” Sheffield said. “We took pretty good swings and the ball wound up going over the fence.”

Albert Pujols doubled in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to 22 games for the Cardinals, who have lost three of the first four on a six-game homestand. Pujols, who got his 100th RBI and scored his 100th run on Thursday, is batting .395 (34-for-86) during the streak and a major-league best .371 overall.

The Braves have won eight in a row over the Cardinals dating to last season, including a three-game sweep in Atlanta in April. The NL East leaders are 76-39, matching the best start in franchise history, set in 1998 and matched last season.

Sheffield, who entered the game with a major league-leading .361 road average, hit his 28th homer in the first inning off Jeff Fassero (1-6). Giles hit his 14th, a two-run shot and his third homer in as many games, in the third for a 3-0 lead.

Jones hit his 29th homer, a two-run shot to center off Esteban Yan, for a 6-2 lead in the eighth. Lopez, the next batter, also connected to center for his 31st homer.

Ortiz scattered five hits and had six strikeouts and four walks, leaving after walking Scott Rolen to start the ninth. The only blemish was a two-run double by Edgar Renteria in the fourth after Tino Martinez and Rolen drew successive one-out walks.

Ortiz picked off Renteria to end the threat.

“I kind of battled for a couple of innings,” Ortiz said. “But for the most part I felt like I could do what I wanted to do.”

The Cardinals missed another chance to score in the second after Martinez and Rolen got leadoff singles to put runners at the corners. St. Louis was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and is 3-for-25 in that situation during the homestand.

Fassero, 40, had come out of the bullpen to give the Cardinals’ struggling rotation a boost with three straight effective starts. But he lasted only 3 2-3 innings against the Braves, allowing four runs on five hits.

“I didn’t get ahead of guys like I had been doing,” Fassero said. “Itshows what happens when you don’t get ahead of guys.”

Notes

Fassero made his first start against the Braves since July 8, 2000 and he’s 0-7 in nine starts since his last win over Atlanta on Sept. 22, 1993. … Ortiz reached 100 strikeouts for the fifth straight year when he fanned Bo Hart to start the first. … Orlando Palmeiro is 12-for-34 as a pinch hitter after singling in the seventh. … Hart is 1-for-15 on the homestand to drop his average to .299. … LF Chipper Jones and SS Rafael Furcal got the night off for the Braves. … The Braves are 24-8 in their last 32 games and are a season-best 37 games above .500. … Pujols’ streak is the Cardinals’ longest since Joe McEwing hit in 25 straight games in 1999. … The Cardinals have beenheld to eight runs the first four games of the homestand.

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