0

Bullpen lets Braves down in ninth
Acosta gives up pair of homers in loss

ATLANTA - No Smoltz. No Soriano. No save for the Atlanta Braves.

Only hours after would-be closer John Smoltz announced he'll have season-ending surgery next week, rookie Manny Acosta gave up a pair of two-run homers in the ninth as the Florida Marlins rallied to beat the Braves 6-4 on Wednesday.

Rafael Soriano, who returned from a sore elbow only a week ago, was held out after pitching back-to-back days. Acosta, a rookie, couldn't hold a 4-2 lead as Mike Rabelo hit a tying two-run homer and Hanley Ramirez added another two-run shot, his second homer of the game.

'You're not going to hold them all the time,' said Braves manager Bobby Cox.

The bullpen has blown 7 of 16 save opportunities, and the news from Smoltz ended hopes that he would return as a stabilizing closer.

'We've got guys out there,' Cox said. 'If Soriano can go more than a couple times a week or so, we're fine.'

Cox acknowledged the loss of Smoltz was a letdown but said the team's mood 'is not a depression now.'

The Braves were only three outs away from taking their third straight win in the series and pulling into a second-place tie with the Marlins in the NL East.

Cody Ross led off the ninth with a single off Acosta and scored on Rabelo's tying homer to right.

'I didn't think it would get out,' Rabelo said. 'I was just excited to tie the game up. ... It's huge, coming back in the ninth. Hopefully that will light a fire under us.'

With one out, Jorge Cantu doubled to center. Ramirez, who hit a homer in the third, hit a long drive to right that curved foul. Braves fans called for a pitching change, but Cox stayed with Acosta as Ramirez blasted the homer to left.

'I think every time he threw a breaking ball today, it got hit hard,' Cox said. 'That's one of his best pitches. He just didn't have control of that today.'

Acosta (3-3) recorded only one out while giving up four hits, three for extra bases, and four runs for his second blown save in five opportunities. He left the clubhouse without speaking with reporters.

The Marlins blew leads while losing the first two games of the series.

'We've been getting a lot of tough losses,' Ramirez said. 'We had to wake up the team, one way or another.'

Ramirez was only 7-for-34 in the first eight games of a 10-game road trip before driving in three runs with the two homers.

'I was struggling; I didn't know what I was doing,' Ramirez said. 'You just have to be patient.'

The meltdown by Acosta took a win from Tom Glavine, who gave up two runs in five innings.

Glavine needed 97 pitches to make it through five innings, but he gave up only six hits and two walks - both in the first inning - with five strikeouts. Blaine Boyer relieved Glavine and gave up only a walk in 21/3 innings. Will Ohman recorded the final two outs in the eighth.

Justin Miller (2-2) pitched two perfect innings and Kevin Gregg pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 14 chances.

Jeff Francoeur and Josh Anderson, making his first start in center field, each had two hits and drove in a run for Atlanta.

Ramirez led off the game with a walk and scored the Marlins' first run on Mike Jacobs' single before the Braves tied the game with three hits, including Greg Norton's run-scoring single, in the bottom half of the inning.

Atlanta took the lead in the second. Anderson reached on an infield single and scored on Yunel Escobar's single. Francoeur's single drove in Escobar.

Omar Infante hit a one-out double in the sixth and scored on Anderson's single to center, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.

Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected by first-base umpire Adrian Johnson after arguing a close call at first base in the eighth inning. Johnson hesitated before calling Jacobs out on a grounder to second. Jacobs appeared to beat the throw from Kelly Johnson but his foot may have missed the front of the bag.

'I was just protecting Jacobs and make sure he stayed in the game,' Gonzalez said. 'I'd rather have him in the game than me.'

Notes: Ramirez had his second two-homer game of the season. He also hit two homers against Washington on April 20. ... The Braves recalled RHP Phil Stockman from Triple-A Richmond to replace Smoltz.