BALTIMORE (AP)—Russ Ortiz earned his first victory in June with a performance that was more of an escape act than a pitching gem.
Ortiz (7-6) walked two and struck out four. He yielded at least one hit in every inning but the second, yet permitted only one runner to get as far as third base.
The right-hander was 0-2 in four starts this month after going 4-1 in May.
“The first outing this month was OK. The next couple were pretty good, but the last one I didn’t feel like I was at all aggressive,” he said, referring to a poor outing against Cleveland. “This time, I said I’m going to be aggressive with everything, trying to get ahead and use all my pitches. I set my mind to do that and it worked out.”
Ortiz was replaced by John Smoltz after walking David Newhan to open the eighth with the score 2-0. Miguel Tejada singled on the first pitch, but Smoltz retired Rafael Palmeiro on a popup before getting former Braves catcher Javy Lopez to hit into a double play.
“I would say that was huge,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Javy could change that game around like a heartbeat.”
The 45-year-old Franco has 26 RBIs, a major league record by a player 45 or older. Pete Rose had 25 in 1986, also at age 45.
The Orioles had runners on second and third with one out in the ninth, but Smoltz got out of the jam to earn his 12th save and seal the Braves’ third win in 10 games.
Atlanta got all the offense it needed in the first inning against Rodrigo Lopez (5-4). After Rafael Furcal hit a leadoff single, Newhan threw wildly to first after picking up Nick Green’s sacrifice bunt down the third-base line.
“I had a little bit of trouble with the transfer,” Newhan said.
“It helps any pitcher when you get ahead,” Ortiz said. “It makes them a little defensive.”
Before the game, the Orioles reassigned pitching coach Mark Wiley and replaced him with Ray Miller, who was assigned the task of improving a staff that led the AL in walks and ranked last in ERA.
Baltimore’s shortcoming Saturday wasn’t pitching, as Lopez allowed five hits, one walk and no earned runs in seven innings in his return to the starting rotation.
“I thought he was tremendous,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.
But the Orioles couldn’t back him with any runs. Baltimore stranded 10 and went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
“We had our chances,” Mazzilli said. “We hit the ball hard early in the game, with line drives, but they didn’t fall in. It’s just bad luck, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
In the fourth, Tejada singled with one out and took third on a double by Palmeiro, but Ortiz struck out Lopez and retired Jay Gibbons on a grounder.
The Orioles got two on with one out in the fifth before Ortiz worked out of trouble, and Baltimore also wasted a leadoff double by Luis Matos in theseventh.
The game attracted 47,438, the Orioles’ fifth sellout and third of the week. … Baltimore 3B Melvin Mora was back on the bench after aggravating a foot injury on Friday night. He’s missed seven of eight games. … The teams wore 1968 replica uniforms. … Franco went 0-for-3 with three strikeoutsbefore his ninth-inning single.