Braves 2, Devil Rays 0
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Lou Piniella never had a month like this.
The Devil Rays finished 5-21 in June, the most losses in a month for Piniella during his 17-year managerial career.
“The losses hurt,” Piniella said. “It’s how we play the rest of the way. That’s all I’m concerned about. I don’t know how many games we’ve lost this month by one or two runs. I don’t know what that number is, but it would be scary to look.”
Thirteen of the defeats in June were by one or two runs.
The 21 losses also set a Tampa Bay record for most during a month. The Devil Rays went 3-15 in interleague play, establishing a major league mark for the most defeats.
Atlanta took two of three in the final interleague series of the season.
“They look like a nice team that’s building,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said of the Devil Rays. “Today they could have won the game, as well as the first game. They’re right in it. Lou’s got them right there.”
Tampa Bay has been shut out seven times. The Devil Rays are 19-29 in a major league-high 48 games decided by two runs or fewer.
“It was a heck of a ballgame,” Piniella said. “We just got beat 2-0. What can I say? We played well defensively. We pitched well. If we play like this the rest of the year, we’re going to win a lot of baseball games.”
Ortiz (10-4) struck out four and walked two in 7 2-3 innings. The right-hander retired nine straight before allowing an infield single to Antonio Perez with two outs in the eighth.
John Smoltz got four outs to finish the three-hitter and earn his 29th save in 31 opportunities.
“Of course I wanted to stay in there,” Ortiz said. “Who am I to argue when you have one of the best closers in the game coming in for you?”
Smoltz moved past Tom Glavine into fifth place on the franchise list by pitching in his 506th game.
“Smoltzie had not worked in four days,” Cox said. “When you’ve got Smoltz out there with a one-run lead, it’s difficult not to use him when he’s had four days’ rest.”
Sosa allowed one run and five hits over six innings. The right-hander worked out several jams, holding the Braves to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“I concentrated more,” Sosa said through an interpreter. “I tried to keep the pitches down. If you make a mistake to the best lineup in the big leagues, you’re going to get hurt.”
Both teams threatened in the first but failed to score.
Ortiz retired 11 straight after Martin’s hit before Javier Valentin’s two-out double in the fifth. Ortiz then got Perez on an inning-ending grounder.
Giles doubled with one out in the third, but was left stranded when Sheffield and Chipper Jones flied out. Martin, in left, made a running catch onChipper Jones’ fly.
The Braves are 71-47 in interleague play. … The Devil Rays are 0-12-1 in their last 13 series. … Giles reached base in his first three plate appearances with a walk, a double and a hit by pitch. … Tampa Bay SS Julio Lugo (hip pointer) was out of the lineup after starting the previous 38 games. … Devil Rays 1B Travis Lee (one RBI in his last 11 games) and rookie CF Rocco Baldelii (two homers and eight RBIs in June) were rested. … Chipper Joneswent 0-for-4. He needs one hit for 1,500 in his career.