John Smoltz’s pursuit of the major league single-season saves record is likely over.
For the Atlanta Braves, however, having their closer healthy for the postseason outweighs all other concerns.
With Smoltz on the disabled list, the Braves will look to win for the fifth time in six games when they meet the New York Mets in the finale of their three-game series at Turner Field.
The Braves placed Smoltz on the 15-day DL Wednesday with tendinitis in his right elbow. Team physician Dr. Joe Chandler stressed several times that the condition is not serious, and said Smoltz is not expected to have any lingering effects when he returns Sept. 8.
“This is an enforced period of rest that John otherwise wouldn’t take,” Chandler said. “This takes it out of his hands. This is not a serious problem.”
Smoltz, who set the NL single-season mark with 55 saves last season, leads the majors with 44 and was on pace to eclipse Bobby Thigpen’s all-time record of 57 set in 1990.
“This is classic tendinitis,” said Smoltz, who’s had problems warming up because of the ailment. “You have to do more to pitch less.”
While Smoltz heads to the DL, Mike Hampton looks to win his 10th consecutive decision. The 30-year-old left-hander has not lost since July 1, going 9-0 with a 3.47 ERA in his last 10 starts.
The Mets had won three straight and four of their previous five. They scored their lone run Wednesday on a solo homer by Mike Piazza, who needs four homers to tie Carlton Fisk’s all-time record for catchers at 351.
STANDINGS: Mets - 5th place, 26 1/2 GB, NL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
METS PROBABLE STARTER: Al Leiter (12-7, 4.47 ERA). Leiter has been impressive in recent outings, allowing no more than three earned runs in seven consecutive starts. He is 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA in that span. On Friday, he allowed two runs and six hits over six innings in a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Leiter is 8-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 23 career games against the Braves.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Hampton (12-5, 4.10 ERA). Hampton allowed four runs and 11 hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-4 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. He is 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 20 career games against the Mets.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mets - Cliff Floyd, .290 avg., 18 HRs and 68 RBIs; Ty Wigginton, 64 runs; Jose Reyes, 13 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .333 avg., 107 RBIs and 110 runs; Sheffield and Javy Lopez, 34 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 22 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 11-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Mets - C Piazza is batting .306 (11-for-36) in his career against LHP Hampton. … LHP Pedro Feliciano left in the sixth inning Wednesday with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. … OF Roger Cedeno missed Wednesday’s game to be with his 3-year-old daughter, who had minor surgery at an Atlanta hospital. Braves - CF Andruw Jones is batting .207 (12-for-58) in his career against LHP Leiter. … LF Chipper Jones’ homer on Wednesday was the Braves’ 200th of the season, marking the fourth time in franchise history they have reached that mark. … The Braves recalled LHP Jung Keun Bong from Triple-A Richmond to take RHP Smoltz’s spot on the roster.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mets - 29-38 on the road; Braves - 46-20 at home.
INJURIES: Mets - OF Floyd (Achilles’), 15-day DL; RHP Pedro Astacio (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Strickland (groin), 60-day DL; 1B Mo Vaughn (knee), 60-day DL. Braves - 1B Julio Franco (finger), 15-day DL; RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL.