ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox didn’t care to celebrate his 1,500th victory—he plans to win many more.
“I didn’t know that until I walked on the field and (coach) Fredi Gonzalez told me,” Cox said of his latest milestone. “Somebody told me back in Atlanta, but it sure wasn’t on my mind tonight. You know, I’ll shoot for 2,000.”
Ramirez (7-2) allowed two runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings. He struck out a career-high eight and walked one. The left-hander hasn’t lost in 10 starts, dating to a 7-4 loss to Florida on April 11.
“I’ve really been spoiled with these guys,” Ramirez said. “These guys have been giving me a lot of runs. I’m very fortunate.”
Atlanta is averaging seven runs per game in Ramirez’s 13 starts.
Chipper Jones put Atlanta up 6-2 with a two-run homer in the fifth. He is 14-for-31 with five homers and 11 RBIs at Tropicana Field.
“It was one of those days where things seemed to fall in,” Jones said. “I got the pitches that I was looking for and didn’t miss them.”
Sheffield and Andruw Jones added solo homers in the ninth. The Braves have won six of seven all-time at Tampa Bay.
“They over-powered us,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “You don’t like to lose. They just beat us. They’re as good as a ballclub as I’ve seen all year.”
The announced crowd of 16,398 featured a large number of Atlanta supporters.
“It’s nice ballpark for us to play in,” Cox said.
Sheffield, who grew up in nearby Tampa and still resides in the area, had more than one thousand people from his church in attendance for his first game at Tropicana Field.
“You want to do something special and give them something to cheer for,” Sheffield said. “Luckily I did that tonight.”
Ben Grieve had an RBI double for the Devil Rays, who have lost nine of 10 and are 4-20 this month. The 20 losses equaled a team record for defeats during a month.
It’s just the third time Piniella has lost 20 games in a month during his 17-year managerial career.
Furcal, mired in an 0-for-16 stretch, hit a three-run double off Jeremi Gonzalez (3-4) during a four-run second as Atlanta took a 4-0 lead.
“I made a lot of mistakes,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully the next game is going to be better.”
The Braves were coming off two straight losses to Philadelphia in which they totaled just two runs. It was their fewest runs over a two-game period since back-to-back shutout defeats to Montreal in the second and third games of the season.
Rocco Baldelli’s RBI grounder got the Devil Rays to 4-1 in the third.
The run-scoring double by Grieve made it 4-2 one inning later.
Grieve was in the lineup one day after Piniella scolded him in the dugout after the easygoing designated hitter took a called third strike to end a one-run loss to the New York Yankees.
Piniella said he considers the issue over.
Gonzalez gave up six runs and nine hits in five innings. It was the first time in nine starts with Tampa Bay that the right-hander has allowed more than four runs.
“He’s entitled,” Piniella said. “He’s pitched well.”
Chipper Jones was the DH after he was hit in the ankle by a liner during batting practice. … Andruw Jones went 3-for-5 to move past Ralph Garr for sixth place on Atlanta’s career list with 1,023 hits. He also reached 20 homers for the sixth straight season. … Grieve went 1-for-3 and has just three hits in his past 28 at-bats. … Braves RHP Roberto Hernandez (abdominal strain) was activated from the 15-day disabled list. He pitched a scoreless eighth. … Atlanta is 70-46 all-time in interleague play. … The Devil Rayshave dropped 14 of 16 this season against NL teams.