San Francisco won its last eight games - three more than any
other team in the playoffs - as it helding off the Los Angeles
Dodgers for the National League wild card. The Giants last made
the postseason in 2000, losing in four games to the New York
Mets in the NLDS.
Since August 25, the Giants (96-66) were a major league-best
25-8, and a big reason for that has been Ortiz (14-10, 3.61
ERA), who has won his last six starts since a loss to Montreal
on August 23.
"My whole thought process before each game is to just go out and
get ahead and throw strikes, keep the ball down, keep the ball
in the park and not let the big guys beat me, try to eliminate
big innings," Ortiz said. "For whatever reason, I've been able
to do that in the second half (of the season). I think it's
because I've been able to learn from the first half."
He went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in one start against Atlanta this
season, yielding two runs and five hits over seven innings of a
7-2 road triumph on August 13. In his career, the 28-year-old
righthander is 3-4 with a 4.63 ERA against the Braves.
Ortiz made one start against the Mets in the 2000 NLDS and left
without a decision after allowing one run and two hits in 5 1/3
The Giants are led on offense by Barry Bonds, who should be
named Most Valuable Player for a record fifth time. After
setting a major league record with 73 home runs in 2001, the
38-year-old slugger became the oldest player to win a batting
title, hitting a career-best .370. He also established a new
major league record for on-base percentage (.582 - 29 points
higher than Ted Williams' 1941 mark) and broke his own record
for walks (198 - 22 more than his 2001 total).
But Bonds has a history of playoff diappointments, failing to
win a series in five tries, going 0-3 in NL Championship Series
with Pittsburgh from 1990-92, when he batted only .207, and 0-2
in Division Series with San Francisco in 1997 and 2000, when he
hit an anemic .191.
"We need to relax Barry Bonds," Giants manager Dusty Baker said.
"That's what we need. Hopefully, this will help the other guys
relax, just play the way we are capable of playing."
"The law of averages are probably on his side," said Atlanta
starter Tom Glavine, of Bonds. "But we're hoping to delay that
by at least one more year."
Glavine (18-11, 2.96) struggled down the stretch, going 2-5 over
nine starts since surrendering just five hits over seven
innings in a 1-0 win over the Giants on August 14.
The 36-year-old lefthander is 17-13 with a 3.56 ERA in 36 career
games against the Giants and 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA in seven
career NLDS outings. Last year, he yielded just six hits over
eight scoreless innings in a 7-4 win at Houston in Game Two of
The Braves (101-59) lost their season finale to the Mets to snap
a four-game winning streak but nevertheless notched their fifth
100-win season since 1993 and fourth in six years.
"(Winning) over 100 games - that's a lot of ballgames," Braves
manager Bobby Cox said. "We put our bullpen together in spring
training. We had a lot of areas that were open for players to
win jobs, especially in the bullpen and the right ones won them.
... All of those guys played major roles in the success of the
Atlanta won the NL West from 1991-93, and after the
strike-shortened 1994 season, took the NL East title each of the
last eight years. But for all of their regular season
successes over the last dozen years, the Braves have only one
World Series title (1995) to show for their efforts.
The Braves swept the Astros in last year's NLDS before falling
in five games to the eventual champion Arizona Diamondbacks in
"I think we've had an awful lot of success and I don't think we
should have to defend that," Glavine said. "If winning the
postseason were that easy, then there would be a lot of teams
doing it. It's just not an easy prospect. So much of the
postseason depends on how you are playing at the time, and you
get in a short series and one or two mistakes can cost you a
series and it makes all the difference in the world."