Atlanta’s John Smoltz looked like his old self again in his last outing, but still came away without a win.
He’ll take a third shot at his first victory of the season as the Braves resume a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Smoltz allowed just two earned runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings, but was charged with the loss in Sunday’s 6-1 defeat to Pedro Martinez and the New York Mets. Smoltz, the 1996 Cy Young Award winner, struck out 15, matching the Atlanta record he set in 1992 against Montreal, but was pulled after giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran in the eighth.
“I felt like I was as strong as I needed to be and I didn’t have one second thought in the eighth inning,” said Smoltz, who wanted to stay in the game after the homer.
Smoltz became Atlanta’s closer after making just five starts in 2001, and is one of just two pitchers, along with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, with at least 150 wins and 150 saves.
Smoltz returned to the Braves’ rotation this season, but was pounded for seven runs and six hits in 1 2-3 innings in his first start on April 5. The outing matched his shortest ever as a starter.
Smoltz received a standing ovation from the home crowd Sunday after his 36th career game with 10 or more strikeouts.
“I don’t ever remember seeing him that good,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “It’s a shame. He hooked up with a tough guy and Martinez looked like the guy who was going to lose there for a while.”
Smoltz missed the Braves’ three-game series with the Washington Nationals earlier in the week to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Michigan.
The Braves pounded the Phillies 11-4 in the series opener Friday after losing the last two games of their set with the Nationals. Raul Mondesi and Rafael Furcal each hit two homers and Adam LaRoche added a two-run shot for Atlanta, which matched its highest run total of the season.