San Francisco (65-68) at Atlanta (63-68)

  • Game info: 7:35 pm EDT Thu Aug 31, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—The Atlanta Braves look to match their longest home winning streak of the season when they go for a sweep of the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.

The Braves won 5-3 on Wednesday, their fourth straight victory at Turner Field. Atlanta won a season-high five in a row from April 30-May 13.

Adam LaRoche had three doubles, a triple and three RBIs for the Braves (63-68), who held Barry Bonds to just one hit.

Bonds hit two homers in Tuesday’s series opener—his first multihomer game since Aug. 29, 2004 leaving him 28 homers shy of tying Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home run hitter—but Atlanta won 13-8.

On Wednesday, the seven-time NL MVP was hit by a pitch in the first inning and walked twice.

LaRoche is 7-for-9 with five RBIs in the series against San Francisco (65-68). Since the All-Star break, the first baseman is batting .368 (49-for-133) with 14 homers and 38 RBIs as Atlanta has climbed back into the wild card picture.

“This is what it’s all about,” LaRoche said. “We strayed away from that for a while.”

The Braves, winners of 14 straight division titles, are four games behind San Diego in the wild card standings.

“I think we’ve got a lot of momentum going,” winning pitcher Chuck James said. “And we’ve got Smoltzie going tomorrow. I think we’re going to get it rolling here and give ourselves a shot at the wild card.”

To keep the winning streak alive, the Braves will turn to John Smoltz (12-6, 3.36 ERA), who’s been nearly automatic since the beginning of July, winning eight of his last nine decisions.

Since July 3, the 39-year-old right-hander is 8-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 11 starts. He’s also allowed fewer than two runs in six of those outings.

Smoltz beat Washington 10-1 on Saturday, allowing one run and three hits in eight innings. He has won six straight starts with a 2.11 ERA and .195 opponent batting average at home.

“He’s as good as I’ve ever seen him, and he’s been that way all year,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “His control is just devastating and his stuff is just devastating.”

Smoltz didn’t earn a decision in Atlanta’s 6-5 loss to San Francisco on April 9, after allowing four runs and six hits in seven innings. He is 11-14 with a 4.02 ERA in 44 career games—35 starts—against the Giants, and has only one victory in the last 10 years against San Francisco.

Bonds is hitting .290 (18-for-62) in his career against Smoltz, with eight homers and 14 RBIs.

Matt Morris (9-11, 4.47) looks to duplicate his last start for San Francisco. The right-hander snapped a four-game losing streak by throwing a three-hitter in a 4-1 win over Cincinnati on Friday.

“That was vintage him,” Giants outfielder Steve Finley said. “He’s pitched a lot of games like that for us. We haven’t given him many runs. We haven’t given him much breathing room. I thought he took matters into his own hands.”

Morris is 1-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 12 career games against Atlanta, and has received just an average of 2.54 runs of support in those contests.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Morris PIT vs. J. Smoltz STL
10-15 Record 16-9
4.98 ERA 3.49
117 K 211
63 BB 55
1.35 WHIP 1.19


Thursday, Aug 31