John Smoltz tries to win his fifth straight start at Turner Field and rebound from his first loss in two months as the Atlanta Braves open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.
Smoltz (10-6, 3.62 ERA) hasn’t lost at home since June 7, and is 6-3 with a 2.99 ERA at Turner Field this season.
Atlanta’s ace hadn’t lost in any ballpark since June 13, going 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 11 starts, before losing at Washington on Wednesday. He gave up six runs and nine hits with three walks in five innings of a 9-6 defeat.
“I didn’t have good touch, and I didn’t have good command,” Smoltz added. “It’s probably the worst command I have had in a long time. No rhyme or reason — just didn’t have it.”
It matched his second-shortest outing of the year and equaled the most earned runs he’s allowed all season.
“It was a frustrating night for me, because anytime we get five, I should win. We got six,” Smoltz said. “I’ll start a new streak.”
One of the victories during his six-game win streak came at Pittsburgh on Aug. 1 in his only appearance this season against the Pirates. He struck out six and allowed one run in seven innings of a 4-2 victory.
Smoltz is 18-11 with a 3.24 career ERA against the Pirates.
The Braves won two of three games at Pittsburgh earlier this month in the only series between the teams this season. The Pirates haven’t won any of their 10 series at Atlanta since 1997.
Atlanta has won three consecutive series despite a 4-3 loss to Florida on Sunday, and enters Monday trailing Cincinnati by 5 1/2 games for the NL wild card.
The Pirates (47-77) did not help the Braves’ cause over the weekend, losing two of three games to the Reds.
Pittsburgh lost Sunday’s series finale 5-1 by giving up four runs in the third inning.
“Basically, … (the Reds) had one offensive inning,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “We had a good opportunity. We started out the game the way we wanted to, but we couldn’t get anything going.”
Pittsburgh has lost seven of eight on the road, and is a league-worst 15-47 away from home this year.
Pirates left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (2-3, 3.74) will oppose Smoltz. He’s been outstanding recently, going 2-1 in his last five starts and allowing no more than two runs in any of them.
Gorzelanny did not get a decision last Tuesday against Milwaukee as he allowed two runs in seven innings of a 6-3 loss.
He has never faced the Braves.