John Smoltz returned to the Atlanta Braves as a closer, hoping the role he had from 2001-04 will help him cope with an aching right shoulder and extend his career.

His first appearance didn't go like he wanted: Coming on in the ninth inning with a 4-3 lead against the visiting Florida Marlins, he gave up a two-out, two-run single to Jeremy Hermida to blow the save last night.

Still, the Braves rallied for a 7-5 win. Jeff Francoeur scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, and Yunel Escobar ended it with a two-run homer in the 10th.

The 41-year-old Smoltz was activated yesterday before the start of a four-game series against the Marlins.

Smoltz started the season on the disabled list, came back to make five starts, but went back on the DL again. He soon decided the only way to avoid potentially career-ending surgery was to go back to the bullpen.

Smoltz had 154 saves with the Braves during his previous stint as a closer. He has been a starter through most of his career and is the only pitcher in baseball history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.

He said he doesn't know how long he'll remain in the bulpen, or in baseball for that matter.

"I am a realist," he said. "I know I'm not going to pitch until I'm 45. I don't know if I'll pitch beyond this year. But I've not known that the last 3 years."

In other games:

* At St. Louis, Jason Michaels hit a tying, pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh and Jason Bay drove in the winning run an inning later to lead Pittsburgh past the Cardinals, 5-4.

* At Milwaukee, Prince Fielder homered to lead off the eighth, and scored a run after stealing third in the second, to lift the Brewers over Arizona , 4-3.

* At Los Angeles, Jeff Kent, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp hit home runs, Derek Lowe (3-5) pitched eight strong innings for his first win in more than 5 weeks, and the Dodgers handed Colorado its eighth straight loss, 8-2.

* At San Francisco, Brian Horwitz hit the first home run of his career - a two-run shot - and Ray Durham also had three RBI to lead the Giants over the New York Mets, 10-2.

* At San Diego, Jim Edmonds knocked in two runs to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 7-6 win over the Padres. Carlos Zambrano (8-1) got the win.


* New York Mets righthander Pedro Martinez will make his second start of the season when he faces the Giants in San Francisco tonight. In his first outing, on April 1 at Florida, he left the game with a strained left hamstring. In other Mets news, outfielder Raul Gonzalez returned to the team, agreeing to a minor league contract. Gonzalez, 34, played for New York in 2002-03. He hit .278 in 41 games with Vaqueros Laguna of the Mexican League this year before getting released May 5. *