Braves 9, Expos 1

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ATLANTA (AP)—Russ Ortiz tuned up for the playoffs just the way he wanted to.

Ortiz allowed three hits in five scoreless innings to win his 21st game and Atlanta beat the Montreal Expos 9-1 Wednesday night in the Braves’ final home game of the regular season.

Ortiz (21-7), who will be the Braves’ starter Tuesday when Atlanta opens its first-round NL playoff series, ran his scoreless innings streak to 14.

In his previous start, the right-hander pitched a three-hit shutout to beat Florida on Sept. 19.

“Those last two games are where I want to be. It’s a nice way to end the season and go into the postseason,” Ortiz said. “It’s a good feeling getting everything together.”

Ortiz, who leads the NL in wins, walked four and struck out two. He also singled, drove in a run and scored another despite feeling ill.

“It hit me yesterday. My throat is sore, but I felt OK until the last (fifth) inning,” Ortiz said. “I felt congested and it was a little tougher to breathe. I could have gone on, but we had a big lead.”

Atlanta’s Rafael Furcal went 3-for-4. He had an RBI single and scored twice. Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones and Robert Fick each drove in two runs.

“It was a very good tuneup for Russ,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s been extremely consistent with lots of wins and lots of innings. He’s just a horse.”

The Braves broke it open in the fourth, scoring five runs for a 6-0 lead and knocking out starter Zach Day (9-8).

“Against this team, you have to be on your game,” Day said. “We had to play pretty much perfect baseball to have a chance to win.”

Atlanta had RBI hits from Henry Blanco, Ortiz and Furcal and sacrifice flies from Fick and Sheffield in the inning.

Sheffield, who has a career-high 130 RBIs, drove in Atlanta’s first run in the opening inning with a double.

The Braves added three unearned runs in the sixth off Jose Mercedes on a two-run single by Jones and an RBI single by Fick.

Day went 3 1-3 innings. He gave up six runs on seven hits, walked two and struck out three.

Montreal scored in the sixth off reliever Darren Holmes on an RBI double by Ron Calloway that scored Vladimir Guerrero.

“That was not a well-played game,” Montreal manager Frank Robinson said. “Day didn’t have it, but he didn’t have very much help … That was a lethal combination.”

The Braves hold a one-game lead over San Francisco for the home field advantage in the NL playoffs. Atlanta has a 99-60 record. San Francisco is97-60 after losing 2-1 to Houston on Wednesday.


Braves manager Bobby Cox sat out the second game of his two-game suspension. He was suspended for arguing with umpires Tim Welke and Chuck Meriwether during a Sept. 11 game against Philadelphia. … The Braves finished with a 55-26 home record. … A crowd of 23,594 was on hand, giving Atlanta a season total of 2,401,084. … Chipper Jones’ double in the fourth was the 310th of the season by Atlanta, a franchise record, breaking the record set in 1999. Later in the inning, Furcal’s RBI single was the 1,568th Braves’ hit of the season, breaking the mark set in 1925. … Ortiz has issued 102 walks, topsin the league.

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