Braves 1, Pirates 0
Ortiz shut out Pittsburgh for seven innings to win his sixth in a row and Chipper Jones homered for Atlanta’s only run off Perez, leading the Braves past the Pirates 1-0 Wednesday night.
The game matched two streaking pitchers in Ortiz and Perez, neither of whom had lost since June, and two of baseball’s hottest teams—the Braves have won 21 of 28, the Pirates 21 of 29.
Ortiz (12-6) improved to 7-0 against Pittsburgh in 10 career starts despite allowing at least one baserunner in every inning. The Pirates had nine hits off Ortiz and 11 overall, only to strand 11 runners after scoring 36 runs in their previous five games.
“If you had told me I’d be able to get 100 wins in the big leagues, I didn’t know how long I would even last,” Ortiz said. “I just feel very fortunate. I’ve been on some good teams that gave me an opportunity to win— like tonight, somebody had to do something for us to win and Chipper came up with the home run.”
The left-handed Perez (6-5), fast developing into one of the NL’s best starters, was more in command than Ortiz except for one pitch—Jones’ 14th homer, a solo shot to left field with one out in the fourth.
“When a guy’s throwing as good as that kid was, you hope for more but you know that may hold up,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “I’m sure that was what Russ was thinking.”
“I think everyone sensed it was going to be tough to score more runs,” Ortiz said. “When he’s on, he’s a very tough guy to hit.”
Except for the homer, Perez didn’t allow a runner to reach second until Eli Marrero tripled in the ninth. Perez struck out 10 and walked five in 8 1-3 innings in his sixth double-digit strikeout game this season and the 11th of his career. Perez’s average of 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings leads the majors.
“I certainly am glad we had Russ on the mound for this matchup because you had to know that guy (Perez) wasn’t going to give up too many runs,” Jones said. “He’s the closest thing to Randy Johnson you’ll see. He’s a gem. He’s only 22 years old and he’s still developing, but he can throw it 97 miles per hour and he’s got a developing changeup.”
The Pirates had rallied from at least three runs down to win three of their previous four games, but couldn’t get anything started in only their third loss in 18 home games.
“We felt if we kept it close, we’d get that opportunity … but we couldn’t get that one hit that would get us over the hump,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
They also had runners on first and third with two outs in the seventh before Ortiz got Mackowiak on a soft fly to left. The Pirates threatened again in the eighth, but John Smoltz came on with two on and two outs to get pinch-hitter Abraham Nunez to ground out. Smoltz then pitched a perfect ninth for his 22nd save in 24 opportunities.
“We’re playing good right now, we’re real close,” Perez said. “They won it today, but maybe the next time we win it.”
Ortiz, who trails only 13-game winner Jason Schmidt of San Francisco in victories among NL starters, finished an unbeaten July by going 5-0 in six starts. He is 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts since losing to Cleveland 5-2 on June 20 and 100-57 in his career.
Ortiz, who struck out four and walked none, got his 100th victory in his 200th start. He’s the 531st pitcher to win 100 games in the majors.
Atlanta has won 11 of 13 road games. … Braves starting pitchers are 15-3 in July. … Atlanta’s J.D. Drew didn’t start, a night after his 22-game hitting streak ended. … Ortiz lowered his career ERA against Pittsburgh to 2.70. … Pittsburgh is 16-8 this month and is trying for its first 17-win month since going 17-12 in May 1999. … The Braves are 10-4 against the Pirates the last two seasons. … By going 2-1 in the first two games of the four-game series, the Braves are guaranteed of being no worse than 7-0-3 in their last 10 series.