It was Jimmy Buffet Parrothead Day at the Ted, but it should have been named the John Smoltz Pitching Clinic Day. Facing Nationals starter Pedro Astacio, who 2-hit the Braves the last time he faced them a week ago, Smoltz turned the tables on Washington by 3-hitting their team. But this was also a day when the Braves offense was up to the task of providing plenty of insurance for Captain John. Bobby Cox said of Smoltz, "he's as good as I've ever seen him, maybe better because the slit is so devastating." Without Smoltz on the staff, Bobby Cox said the team might be "out of sight" in the National League.
Brian McCann barely missed a grand slam in the first inning when the ball he hit bounced about two feet below the yellow line at the top of the fence in right field. The double got the scoring started for Atlanta, as they put up four runs against Astacio in the first inning. Jeff Francoeur followed with an RBI single, and after an Adam LaRoche walk, Ryan Langerhans hit into the very rare "sacrifice-fly double play." How is that you say? Langy flied out to shallow center field, and with McCann tagging and coming into score, the center fielder threw the ball to the cut-off man. Why he was loafing the throw to the cut-off man is anyone's guess, but it allowed our catcher to score from third. The double play occurred when Francoeur, also trying to advance on what he thought was a throw to home plate, got tagged out between first and second.
Scary moment in the sixth inning when Jeff Francoeur collided with Nationals first-baseman Nick Johnson trying to make the catch of a pop-up along the first base line. Francoeur looked like he was trying to avoid Johnson, but Johnson kept veering towards foul ground and right into Francoeur's path to first. Both players bounced off of each other and fell to the ground where they were attended to by trainers. Francoeur was called out for interfering with a fielder trying to make a play. Francoeur said after the game that he had his head down while running to first and didn't see Johnson until the last second. Jeff called over to the Nationals clubhouse to make sure that Johnson was all right, as the collision was just a freak accident and neither player's fault.
Francoeur stayed in the game for the next half inning, but came out after the pain was too much for him to stand. Bobby Cox thought that Francoeur might have to sit out tomorrow's game because of the soreness in his ribs, but Francoeur thinks he'll be good enough to play tomorrow. He has started every game this season for the Braves.
The Nationals run in the seventh inning snapped a streak of 15 and one-third scoreless innings for John Smoltz. But one run would be all that they would get. Smoltz attributes his success this season to his improved concentration on each and every pitch. "I love pitching [at Turner Field], and I feel like I've got a really good routine right now," said Smoltz.
Of his hitting and base running, Smoltz said he was thinking of stealing second base in the second inning, but thought better of it. He believes an early lead is a key to winning ballgames and getting on a winning streak. "Today, it was almost the first time ever in my career that I was going to bat in the first inning, and I was `o so close," he said tongue and cheek. He knows though, that "a lot of things are going to have to go right for something special to happen as a team." He continued, saying "it's hard to play baseball when you cannot afford one loss or two in a row." The whole team knows that will be the mantra for the remainder of the season.
Washington 1, Atlanta 10 at Turner Field
Washington Record: (55-74)
Atlanta Record: (60-68)
Winning pitcher - John Smoltz (12-6)
Losing pitcher - Pedro Astacio (3-4)