PITTSBURGH -- Not many managers would intentionally walk Freddy Sanchez to load the bases and bring up Jason Bay, the Pittsburgh Pirates' one reliable run producer. Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves did, and it got his team another victory following a bad weekend.
Edgar Renteria hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning and the Braves turned Horacio Ramirez's effective start into a 3-2 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday night.
Matt Diaz hit his first home run since May 16 to support Ramirez, who didn't get the victory despite limiting the Pirates to two runs over 6 2/3 innings and matching Paul Maholm's strong start for the Pirates.
Maholm has won only two of his last 14 starts, but held the Braves to two runs and five hits over seven innings. He has lasted seven innings in each of his last two starts after doing so only once in his previous nine.
Tyler Yates (1-1) got his first victory in 27 games with the Braves by getting the final out in the seventh, despite permitting Jack Wilson's RBI single that briefly tied it at 2. But Yates' one out was a key one -- Bay on a flyball that followed singles by Chris Duffy and Wilson and the walk to Sanchez, the NL's leading hitter with a .347 average.
"That's the respect factor they have for Freddy," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "The game is in the balance there and the chances of striking Freddy out aren't very good."
Bay felt he got a pitch to hit from Yates, but said, "I got a fastball I could drive, but I didn't do anything with it."
Salomon Torres (3-5) took the loss for the Pirates, who have dropped their last two since winning five in a row.
The Braves have won two in a row in Pittsburgh since dropping five of six, including a three-game weekend sweep at home by the Mets.
"We all know we've got to get going, that we can't afford many more series like we had at home," Ramirez said. "We all realize that and we're all trying to do something about it."
Willy Aybar started the eighth with a drive into the gap in left-center that left fielder Bay dropped after sprinting far to his left. Aybar was initially given a double but the call was later changed to an error.
"I just didn't catch it," Bay said. "A major league outfielder should make that catch but I didn't and it cost us."
Marcus Giles followed with a bunt single to the left of the pitcher's mound that Torres couldn't handle, and Renteria hit his sacrifice fly.
After Danys Baez pitched a scoreless eighth, Bob Wickman finished up for his 19th save in 22 chances and his fourth in as many opportunities since being traded by the Indians to the Braves.
"We're impressed with it right now," Cox said of a bullpen that has settled down since Wickman arrived. "It feels good to have everybody in order out there."
Diaz put the Braves ahead 2-1 by leading off the seventh with his third homer of the season, a drive that barely reached the first row of seats in left field. The homer was his first since a shot off the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis on May 16.
"I haven't gotten the ball in the air to left field in two weeks, so it was good to do that in a key situation," Diaz said.
The Braves won despite losing first baseman Adam LaRoche to a strained right hamstring after he doubled and scored on Todd Pratt's double in the fifth. LaRoche was injured running the bases and is listed as day to day.
"It's a real high hamstring (injury) -- I tore it pretty good last year, so I think some scar tissue ripped in there," he said. "This is like the third time I did this since I initially did it last year. It's nothing I haven't had before. It's always a day or two and then it's back to where I can play again."
LaRoche homered twice in Atlanta's 4-2 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday and has nine homers in 17 games since the All-Star break.
The Pirates threatened in the sixth but Ramirez got Jose Bautista to pop up on the first pitch he saw with two outs and the bases loaded. Sanchez had singled for his second hit of the game before Bay and Xavier Nady walked.
"We stayed away from the big inning," Ramirez said.
Pirates starters have pitched into the seventh in six of seven games. ... Yates had two wins with the Mets in 2004. He missed last season following rotator cuff surgery. ... The left-handed Maholm pitched against Atlanta for the first time. ... The gametime temperature was 86 on a humid night.