John Smoltz always wanted to pitch in his hometown. He’s finally getting that chance.
Smoltz, born in suburban Detroit, pitched a perfect 10th inning Tuesday to complete a 4-3 win in the series opener—the Braves’ first trip to Detroit.
“My pulse was racing when I came into the game—I had to take my time and calm down before I started pitching,” said Smoltz, who was drafted by the Tigers in 1986 and traded to the Braves the next year.
“It would have been nice if we could have played at Tiger Stadium, but this is still a great night.”
Smoltz bought 75 tickets for friends and family, but had many more fans among the 19,062 in attendance.
“I don’t know how many people were out there,” Smoltz said. “Obviously, people have known about these games for a long time, so a lot of them had already gotten tickets on their own.”
After Braves third baseman Mark DeRosa led off the top of the 10th inning with a double, Rafael Furcal tried to sacrifice him to third. Pitcher Danny Patterson fielded the bunt and threw the ball into right field, allowing DeRosa to score the eventual game-winning run.
Smoltz struck out two in the bottom half of the inning to earn his ninth save.
“I’m sure Smoltz had some extra energy pitching at home, but he’s one of the elite closers no matter where he is,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “He might not be the best—there’s always Eric Gagne—but I’m sure Bobby Cox wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
Jason Johnson allowed three runs and seven hits over eight innings for Detroit, which lost for the 11th time in 15 games.
“I might have pitched well, but it is getting frustrating, because we are going through a rough patch right now,” Johnson said. “We need to find a way to turn some of these close games around.”