Ortiz masterful in extending Dodgers' slide

ATLANTA (AP) -- Having watched Russ Ortiz escape from one jam

after another, Chipper Jones couldn't resist giving his teammate a

new name.

Nice job, Houdini.

Ortiz twice escaped with the bases loaded and Jones broke up a

scoreless game by homering in the seventh inning, sending the

Atlanta Braves over the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 Friday

night.

The Dodgers have lost eight in a row -- their longest slide since

June 1992, when the team dropped 10 straight.

Los Angeles had plenty of chances.

Ortiz walked five and gave up four hits in seven innings. But he

never gave in to the Dodgers, getting out his biggest predicaments

with inning-ending double plays.

"I told him around the fifth or sixth inning, `Nice job

Harry," Jones said. "He was like, 'Harry?' And I said, 'Yeah,

Houdini.' The guy is unbelievable. He constantly puts himself

behind the 8-ball, but somehow, some way, he gets them to hit a

bullet at somebody and we turn the double play.

"Whatever works for you."

What worked for Jones was moving up in the box. He flied out and

struck out in his first two at-bats against Odalis Perez,

struggling to make contact with a changeup that dipped wickedly in

front of the plate.

Perez (2-3) had given up only two hits and not allowed a runner

past second when Jones came up in the seventh, setting up about 8

inches closer to the mound. Perez went with his changeup on a 2-1

pitch, but Jones lofted it into the left-field seats for his fifth

homer of the season.

"I told myself before the last at-bat that I was going to scoot

up in the box and hit the changeup before it dipped," Jones said.

"He's got really good movement, but I finally ran into one."

Perez made the pitch he wanted.

"I don't think it was a mistake," he said. "It was a very

good pitch. He's a very good hitter."

Despite the losing streak, the Dodgers remained first in the NL

West by percentage points over San Diego. But the memory of their

22-10 start is beginning to fade.

"Every team goes through this," Perez said. "We're in a bad

slump. We need to stop it."

Jones' 403-foot homer made a winner of Ortiz (4-4), who left

after 112 pitches. Chris Reitsma pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and John

Smoltz worked around two hits in the ninth for his seventh save in

eight chances.

While Ortiz struggled with his control, he did bounce back

nicely from his worst start of the season. Last Saturday, he lasted

only 1 1-3 innings at Milwaukee, walking seven and giving up four

runs.

"There's a bigger fire in your belly after a game like that,"

Ortiz said. "You want to go out and have a good, solid start."

He really got tough when the Dodgers got runners on base.

In the second, Adrian Beltre and Juan Encarnacion singled and

Jason Grabowski walked, but Alex Cora grounded into an

inning-ending double play.

Ortiz walked the bases full in the sixth, but Shawn Green's hard

grounder was smothered by shortstop Jesse Garcia, who from his

knees made a quick flip to Nick Green for the relay to first and

another double play.

"It's huge being able to get out of situations like that,"

Ortiz said. "Unfortunately, I've had to do that a lot. But I

always feel I'm going to make my pitch to every hitter."

Perez hasn't won since April 28, despite giving up just nine

earned runs in 28 innings (2.89 ERA) over his last four starts. He

gave up four hits in seven innings to the Braves.

"When we were winning, everybody was happy," Perez said. "We

just need to be patient."

Through the first six innings, only two Atlanta runners got as

far as second base. Mark DeRosa ended an 0-for-16 slump with a

bloop double down the right-field line leading off the third, but

was promptly picked off by Perez.

Green walked in the sixth and went to second on a balk. Garcia

grounded out, ending the inning.

Atlanta added a run in the eighth off Darren Dreifort. Rookie

Nick Green led off with a double and wound up scoring when

shortstop Cesar Izturis made a high throw home on a grounder with

the infield pulled in.Game notes
Perez, who began his career with the Braves, is 1-1 with

2.05 ERA in three career starts against his former team. ... The

Braves used their 35th different lineup in 40 games. ... Grabowski

extended his career-high hitting streak to seven games with a

ninth-inning single off Smoltz. ... The Braves have surrendered

only one run the last two games. ... Former Braves star Dale Murphy

made a marriage proposal on behalf of his son, Chad, while serving

as a guest analyst on the Braves' television broadcast. Chad called

in to say his girlfriend had accepted.