Smoltz and Martinez square off for the second time this season as the Braves continue their three-game series with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
After a disastrous first outing in which he allowed seven runs in 1 2-3 innings against Florida, Smoltz has turned in three straight solid outings, giving up just five runs in 21 1-3 innings. However, the Braves have scored just two runs with Smoltz on the mound, and the veteran right-hander is still searching for his first win.
Smoltz returned to Atlanta’s rotation this season after spending most of the last four years as the closer. He allowed just one earned run and five hits in seven innings against Washington on Thursday, but barely escaped another loss when the Braves scored two unearned runs in the ninth to win 2-1.
“He’s dynamite again. He’s had three of the best games I’ve ever seen him pitch—ever,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “We haven’t gotten him any runs.”
One of those strong outings came against Martinez and the Mets on April 10. Smoltz struck out 15 batters, tying his own Atlanta record, and did not allow a run until Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer that chased him from the game in the eighth inning.
But Martinez, who came to the Mets as a free agent in the offseason, was even better, pitching a two-hitter in the 6-1 win.
“That was the best pitching I’ve ever seen in my career,” New York first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said.
Martinez has allowed just seven earned runs in 29 innings in his four starts this season. He gave up just one earned run and three hits in seven innings of Thursday’s 10-1 win over Al Leiter and the Florida Marlins.
Mike Piazza, who had gone 1-for-13 during the Mets’ three-game series with Washington over the weekend, went 3-for-4 with two doubles for New York.
Chipper Jones, who has been Atlanta’s offensive leader, did not play after suffering a bruised right foot on Sunday. The third baseman, whose 33 homers against the Mets are second only to Barry Bonds’ 35, is day to day and could miss the rest of the series.