Originally created 09/10/04

Phillies shell Ortiz, Braves



ATLANTA -- When Russ Ortiz starts a game by giving up home runs on consecutive pitches -- one to a flyweight shortstop who had gone deep just 10 times in 563 at-bats this season -- there is concern in the home clubhouse that the team's best starter may not be last year's 21-game winner.

Ortiz did nothing to alleviate that concern Thursday night and the Braves offered no response to Wednesday's doubleheader sweep, dropping a 9-4 decision to the Phillies before a hand-wringing crowd of 20,285 at Turner Field.

"One game doesn't mean it's going the opposite way," Ortiz said. "I don't feel like I threw horrible, but obviously I didn't do the job. I just had a bad day."

The Braves, who have now lost three in a row for the first time since late June, rallied from a four-run deficit to tie the game in the fourth, aided in good measure by the Phillies, whose generosity began when center fielder Jason Michaels accidentally batted Charles Thomas' liner over the wall for a home run.

"We've got to win that game somehow," manager Bobby Cox said.

A debatable decision by Cox in walking Bobby Abreu to face Phillies bully-bat, Jim Thome, in the seventh, backfired when Thome whistled rookie reliever Roman Colon's 3 and 2 offering into the right field corner for a tie-breaking, two-run double. Pat Burrell gave the Phillies an extra run with his 20th home run off reliever Chris Reitsma in the eighth, then two more runs scored against reliever Tim Drew in the ninth.

Asked if he was surprised to be ordered to walk Abreu to face Thome, Colon smiled and said, "Yeah. I'm not scared, I'll face anybody, but I thought Abreu would be an easier guy to throw to than Jim Thome."

Conventional baseball wisdom suggested pitching to Abreu instead of Thome, whose 40 home runs are the league's fourth-most, but Cox, ejected for arguing a third-strike call on Marcus Giles in the sixth, chose to pitch to Thome with runners on first and second.

"We'd been striking (Thome) out on a regular basis the whole series," Cox said, explaining his decision.

Ortiz, who seemed to have righted himself after a disastrous August (1-1, 6.62 ERA) by shutting out the Expos on three hits in his last start last Saturday, instead gave up three home runs for the first time in more than two years.

In addition to the back-to-back homers he allowed on his first two pitches of the game to Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco, he gave up Mike Lieberthal's two-run home run the next inning. Ortiz, who surrendered two home runs in each of his last four starts last month, now has yielded 18 long balls this season, one more than he allowed last year.

Ortiz was dismissed after 2 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since recording just four outs against the Brewers May 15.

"Every ball he got in the red zone got hit out," Cox said.

In his previous two starts, Phils starter Cory Lidle had shutout the Brewers and Mets, the first Phillies pitcher in 12 years to accomplish the feat.

Any hopes he held of joining Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Grover Cleveland Alexander as the only pitchers in Phillies history to fire three shutouts in a row vanished in the third, when Chipper Jones followed soft singles by Rafael Furcal and J.D. Drew with his 27th home run over the center field wall, a drive estimated at 420 feet. Jones' home run snapped Lidle's shutout streak at 22 innings.

Next up, one of the season's strangest plays. Michaels was in full glide for Thomas' drive to deep center to open the home half of the fourth, but when he reached up to make the catch, the ball had other ideas, hitting leather but deciding not to stick. As the ball dropped, Michaels reached down to glove it, but his scoop attempt sent it over the wall.

As Michaels leaned against the wall in disbelief, Thomas eased into third, then was ushered home by third base coach Fredi Gonzalez. It went into the books as a game-tying home run, Thomas' fourth of the season.

"I didn't know what was going on," Thomas said. "I saw Fredi (Gonzalez) waving me as if it was an inside-the-park home run and then I saw the umpire signal home run and I didn't know what had happened. It was just one of those quirky plays."