ATLANTA (AP) -- Just like many times over the last four years,
John Smoltz was on the mound to finish an Atlanta victory.
This one was different, however. After saving 154 games from
2001-04, Smoltz again is a starter, and proved he can still go nine
innings in the Braves' 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on
Smoltz pitched his first complete game in six years, giving up
five hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
"I'm sure I don't know how many people thought I would pitch a
complete game this year or pitch 200 innings," Smoltz said.
Smoltz was referring to those who thought that a 38-year-old
pitcher with a history of elbow problems should remain in the
Smoltz (5-5) criticized himself for allowing four straight hits
in Oakland's three-run sixth inning. But backed by Andruw Jones,
who hit a pair of two-run homers, and his rookie catcher,
21-year-old Brian McCann, who added his first major league homer,
the Braves answered with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
McCann, from nearby Duluth, Ga., is one of two Braves rookies
who have childhood pictures posing with Smoltz from the early
1990s. Pitcher Kyle Davies also posed with Smoltz as a kid.
McCann followed Jones' second homer with his shot in the sixth,
but he said the far bigger thrill was catching for Smoltz.
"Today was unbelievable," McCann said. "I got to catch one of
my childhood idols, John Smoltz. I just had a great time out
McCann was 5 when Smoltz pitched his first complete game in
Asked what he learned Saturday, McCann said: "That he's got one
of the dirtiest two-seamers in the game."
McCann, called up from Double-A Mississippi, has started
back-to-back games while Johnny Estrada recovers from a slight
McCann was one of four rookies who started for the Braves,
leaving the 28-year-old Jones as the oldest everyday player in the
"I don't feel it; I'm young, too," Jones said.
The two homers gave Jones a team-leading 14. His bat is
especially important, because the Braves will be without third
baseman Chipper Jones due to a foot injury for at least four to six
Smoltz threw 106 pitches in his 48th career complete game and
first since April 30, 1999, against Cincinnati.
"He had his stuff," A's outfielder Mark Kotsay said. "He was
throwing his fastball just over the kneecap at 92, 93, 94 all
Added A's reliever Justin Duchscherer: "He's amazing. he's been
around for a long time for a reason."
Smoltz lowered his ERA to 3.22 while earning his 168th career
Oakland, which snapped an 11-game road losing streak Friday
night, fell to 9-24 on the road this season.
Trailing 3-2 in the sixth, the Braves regained the lead against
Duchscherer (2-1). In his first 28 innings, Duchscherer had allowed
only one home run, but he gave up back-to-back shots to Jones and
McCann. Jones' homer drove in Adam LaRoche, who singled.
Duchscherer gave up four hits and three runs in two innings.
Starting pitcher Kirk Saarloos held the Braves without a hit
through three innings before the Braves took a 2-0 lead in the
fourth. With two outs, LaRoche singled to right for his first of
three hits and Jones followed with his first homer.
Saarloos gave up four hits and two runs in five innings. He was
lifted for pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty in the sixth inning, when the
A's took the lead.
Mark Ellis, Kielty and Mark Kotsay led off with three straight
singles, driving in one run. Marco Scutaro's double to the
center-field wall drove in Kielty to tie it at 2. After Eric Chavez
intentionally walked to load the bases, Scott Hatteberg hit into a
double play to drive in the third run.
In the eighth, Kielty led off with a walk but was stranded at
third when Smoltz struck out Chavez to end the inning.
Jones recorded his 23rd career multihomer game and his
second of the season. He also hit two homers May 14 at the Los
Angeles Dodgers. ... Jones now has 801 career RBI, becoming the
fifth player in franchise history to drive in 800 runs. ... The A's
have been held to three or fewer runs in 30 of 61 games.
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