BALTIMORE - Atlanta pitcher Russ Ortiz did more than step back in time by wearing a 1968 uniform Saturday afternoon.
He revisited the Braves' glory years with a performance for the ages in a 5-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles, outdueling Rodrigo Lopez before a packed house of 47,438 fans at Camden Yards.
If Ortiz is on the trading block, he strengthened the Braves' hand immeasurably. The 30-year-old right-hander, now 7-6 after winning for the first time this month, gave up seven hits and two walks in seven innings, but did his best work with runners on base, stranding six men in his last four innings.
John Smoltz got the last six outs for his 12th save.
"The way I threw last time, I didn't feel I was aggressive at all," said Ortiz, who lowered his earned run average to 3.87. "This time I said I'll just be aggressive with everything. I set my mind to do that and it worked out."
Ortiz, who along with center fielder Andruw Jones is reportedly at the center of trade talks with the Chicago White Sox for highly-touted pitching prospect Jon Rauch and outfielder Magglio Ordonez, was unfazed by the rumors swirling around him.
"I stopped reading the papers two or three years ago," he said. "I've never been in that situation, so I don't know how I'd deal with it."
The Braves did their best to replicate their 1968 counterparts. That team batted .252 and averaged 3.2 runs per game. This year's version managed just five hits against Lopez, the Orioles' 28-year-old right-hander, in seven innings and both its runs in the first were unearned, thanks to third baseman David Newhan's throwing error.
Atlanta's on-again, off-again offense didn't make another appearance until the ninth, when it scored three times against reliever Jorge Julio on doubles by Johnny Estrada, Charles Thomas and Eli Marrero, and Julio Franco's run-scoring single.
"The guys are starting to swing the bats pretty well," said J.D. Drew, who served as the DH and was 0-for-3.
Staked to a 2-0 lead before he even came out of the visitors' dugout, Ortiz pitched with runners on base in all but one inning. Relying on a 91 mph fastball that he moved in and out, he dodged trouble in the fourth .
Ortiz struck out former Brave Javy Lopez on a 3-2 slider and coaxed an infield roller from Jay Gibbons as the Orioles stranded two base runners.
"That was probably the determining at-bat of the game," Estrada said of Lopez's strikeout.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.
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