Pettitte suffers first career loss vs. Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) -- Horacio Ramirez isn't complaining about having to wait 11 days between starts.

"That's just the way it is. I'm the fifth guy in a great rotation," Ramirez said after he pitched seven shutout innings as the Atlanta Braves beat Houston 4-1 on Saturday night, sending the Astros to their 10th straight road loss.

Julio Franco was 3-for-4 with his first home run of the season for the Braves, who have won four straight and 12 of 15.

Ramirez (2-2) gave up only three hits in his longest outing of the season. It was his first appearance since April 25.

"He's more than a fifth guy, there's no doubt in my mind," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's up at the front of a lot of rotations. I like to think we have five No. 1 guys."

Ramirez entered with a 4-1 record and a 3.76 ERA when working on at least six days' rest. Though he could be skipped again at some point because of off days, he says he understands the situation.

"Definitely. I know what's going on," he said. "If it stays like this, I'm not complaining at all."

After Chris Reitsma gave up a run in the eighth, the Braves had to survive a ninth-inning scare. Dan Kolb walked two and loaded the bases before striking out Willy Taveras to earn his ninth save in 10 opportunities.

Andy Pettitte (2-3) gave up seven hits and three runs in seven innings for his first loss in seven career starts against the Braves.

The Astros fell to 1-13 on the road, including losses in the first three games of this four-game series, with their longest road losing streak since also dropping 10 in a row in 2000. The franchise record is 13 straight road losses, done most recently in 1990.

"It's 10 losses, 10 stinking losses," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "Streaks follow streaks, so when we get it turned around, it's going to be one dandy coming our way."

Pettitte said the road woes are wearing on the team.

"I would have bet everything I owned that we wouldn't lose this many on the road," Pettitte said. "I would definitely say it's getting psychological now. ... Everything is just magnified. We're just not getting the job done."

Franco, who turns 47 on Aug. 23, was 3-for-4. He scored the Braves' first run after hitting an infield single in the fourth inning and hit his first homer since last July 11 in the sixth.

At 46 years, 257 days, he is the second-oldest player in major-league history to hit a
home run. Jack Quinn, a pitcher, was 46 years, 357 days when he hit one for the Athletics on June 27, 1930.

"Julio, I'm not amazed by him anymore," Cox said. "I just expect him to do well."

The Braves hit six fly balls to right field in the first 3 2/3 innings as right-handed hitters were swinging late against Pettitte.

In the fourth, the Braves finally had a fly ball drop safely in right. After Franco's infield single, Andruw Jones drilled a two-out double to the wall in right-center, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.

Franco's homer pushed the lead to 2-0, and the Braves added a third run in the seventh with the help of shortstop Adam Everett's
misplay on a high popup hit by Raul Mondesi.

As a lunging Everett came up empty, the ball fell in shallow left field for a single, allowing Jones, who led off with a double, to score from third.

On Friday night, the Astros misplayed two fly balls in the Braves' three-run second inning.

Reitsma gave up a run in the eighth when Lance Berkman's ground-rule double drove in Taveras from second. Berkman's first hit since returning Friday from knee surgery ricocheted off Franco's shoulder at first and bounced into the stands down the right field line.

Franco said X-rays on his shoulder were negative. He stayed in the game.

The Braves answered in the bottom of the eighth with a run off Astros closer Brad Lidge. Marcus Giles led off with a double and scored on Chipper Jones' single.

Game notes
Chipper Jones' first-inning double was the 334th of his career, leaving him four behind Eddie Mathews' franchise mark of 338. Jones has the Atlanta record. ... Taveras had his major league-leading 13th infield hit in the eighth.