10/06/2002 8:56 pm ET
Turnaround at Turner Field
Giants put NLCS hopes on Ortiz's Atlanta success
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco Giants pitcher Russ Ortiz hopes to continue his turnaround at Turner Field.
After going 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA in three stats at Turner Field through last season, Ortiz has won his last two and compiled a 2.57 ERA. In the most recent, Ortiz allowed two runs in seven strong innings of San Francisco's 8-5 victory in the opener of the National League Division Series.
Now Ortiz will draw on that success when it matters most. Ortiz will start for San Francisco in Monday night's deciding fifth game at Turner.
"I definitely think you do draw from that," Ortiz said. "One thing I've tried to do is continue to pitch on the road, or continue to improve at pitching on the road. That's very important, especially in a place like Atlanta, especially during this time of the year."
Unlike Atlanta Game 5 starter Kevin Millwood, who flew back to Atlanta early Sunday to relax, Ortiz stuck around for the drama of the Giants' 8-3 victory at Pacific Bell Park, which forced the deciding game.
"Our game (Monday) will be in the evening, so it's all in my head," Ortiz said. "It'll be no problem flying with the team. To me, it's no big deal to do that."
"Russ has thrown the ball as good as anybody in the league the last month of the season,"said Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia, whose three-run homer Sunday helped make Ortiz's rubber-game start possible. "(He has a) great demeanor out there, handles himself well, doesn't really get too excited or too rattled.
"And that's the type of guy you want out there in Game 5."
Ortiz, 28, makes any game seem like it isn't a big deal. He said he can't recall the biggest game he has pitched before this one because he works on treating them all the same.
But Ortiz can't deny what this one means. During the season, he told manager Dusty Baker he was ready for ace status and the elite matchups that come with it. As this series has unfolded, Ortiz and Millwood, each of whom entered with lower profiles than others on their staffs, emerged as deserving of getting the ball in the season's most important game.
"We have full confidence in Russ," Baker said. "Hopefully, Russ will come out of the series 2-0."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.