Braves 12, Rockies 6

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DENVER (AP)—Acquired in a trade with San Francisco last December, Russ Ortiz has fit seamlessly into the Atlanta rotation—just like almost every other Braves starter over the last dozen years.

So much so, it almost seems routine to manager Bobby Cox.

“Russ pitched his normal game again—just a duplicate of all the other ones,” Cox said Sunday after Ortiz pitched Atlanta to a 12-6 win over Colorado.

Ortiz posted his major league-leading 18th win as the Braves swept a three-game series, rebounding from being swept in three games by San Francisco last week.

Gary Sheffield homered and drove in three runs. Rafael Furcal, who homered, and Chipper Jones each had four hits and two RBIs for Atlanta.

Vinny Castilla also homered as the Braves got 17 hits, one shy of their season high.

The Rockies were swept at home for the first time this season.

The game was briefly delayed in the top of the fifth when a fan injured his leg while participating in a flyball-catching contest between innings. He had to be carted off the field.

Ortiz (18-5) allowed seven hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings, walking one and striking out five. He matched his career high of 18 victories set with San Francisco in 1999.

Ortiz also helped himself at the plate. He hit a sacrifice fly and later a single, scoring on Furcal’s homer in the seventh.

“For the most part, I felt I made my pitches and hit my spots,” Ortiz said. “That’s one thing about this park. All you can do is make your pitches and not worry about how the ball travels or anything like that.”

Asked about the prospect of winning 20 games, Ortiz said, “I don’t really think about it too much. Obviously, it’s a possibility, but I’m just looking start by start. That helps me focus on the team.”

He also shrugged off suggestions he was a leading contender for the NL Cy Young Award.

“You’ve got guys like (Atlanta reliever John) Smoltz and (Los Angeles reliever Eric) Gagne and who knows what’s going to happen with other starters, too. Too many possibilities for me to worry about.”

Denny Stark (2-2) went five innings, allowing 10 hits and seven runs, six earned.

“We got manhandled two out of three games,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “Our starting pitching got manhandled two out of three games. Stark pitched a good game his last time out. We were looking for some momentum, some consistency, to keep something positive going, and we got everything but that.”

Hurdle said opponents must bring “their `A’ game to deal with the Braves. They’re real good. They’re what, 38 games over .500 now? That’s a lot.”

The Braves jumped out to a 7-1 lead off Stark after four innings.

Atlanta scratched out a run in the second. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. Matt Franco hit a chopper back to Stark, who threw home to get the forceout, but catcher Mandy Romero’s relay to first was off the mark, and the error allowed a run to score.

Furcal singled to lead off the third, and Sheffield followed with a two-run homer, his 33rd. Jones doubled and scored on Javy Lopez’s single.

Two sacrifice flies helped the Braves score three more runs in the fourth.

Franco walked, went to third on Castilla’s single and scored on Ortiz’s sacrifice fly. Furcal singled and Marcus Giles was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Sheffield hit a sacrifice fly, and Jones added an RBI single.

Colorado got a run in the first when Pablo Ozuna was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Todd Helton’s single.

Atlanta made it 9-1 in the sixth on an RBI double by Chipper Jones and a run-scoring groundout by Andruw Jones.

Jay Payton hit a solo homer, his 19th, in the Rockies’ half.

In the seventh, Furcal hit a two-run homer, his 15th, off Cory Vance.

After surrendering two hits in the seventh, Ortiz gave way to reliever Ray King, who served up a two-run double to pinch-hitter Greg Norton. Norton finished with three RBIs.

Castilla hit his 21st homer in the eighth.

Notes

Colorado RF Rene Reyes made a diving catch to rob Lopez in the fifth. … The Braves beat Colorado in the season series 6-0, recording their third season series sweep in Atlanta history. They beat Colorado 13-0 in 1993 and Los Angeles 6-0 in 1994. … Norton’s double was his 17th pinch-hit this season, leading the majors. … Stark suffered just his second career loss at CoorsField, where he is 9-2 in 18 starts over two seasons.

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