Atlanta (74-78) at Colorado (71-81)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 63° F
  • Game info: 8:35 pm EDT Thu Sep 21, 2006
  • TV: TBS, FSRM
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Atlanta Braves turn to John Smoltz to help them improve their dim playoff hopes when they open a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Braves (74-78) are five games behind wild card-leading Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Atlanta has little hope of making a 15th straight postseason appearance in a year that saw its record streak of 14 straight division championships end.

Smoltz (13-9, 3.71 ERA), a member of the Braves for all 14 of those titles, will try to pull his club closer to the wild card. The 39-year-old right-hander hasn’t lost his drive despite Atlanta’s dire situation, outpitching Florida rookie Anibal Sanchez in a 2-1 victory Saturday.

Smoltz allowed one unearned run and eight hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings, while Sanchez gave up two runs and eight hits in eight innings.

“I had a lot of inner desire, and I wasn’t going to lose,” Smoltz said. “That was my mindset.”

The victory snapped a three-start losing streak for Smoltz, who leads the team in wins and innings (211).

“He’s one of the best pitchers in this league,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “He’s 39 years old, and he hasn’t lost anything.”

Smoltz will be looking to win a start against the Rockies for the first time since June 1, 1999. Since then he is 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA and nine saves in nine chances in 17 games—three starts—against Colorado after spending the 2001-04 seasons as a closer.

Atlanta hopes it solidified that role for 2007 with Wednesday’s signing of current closer Bob Wickman to a one-year, $6.5 million extension. Wickman, who joined the Braves in a a trade with Cleveland on July 20, helped stabilize a shaky bullpen that was one of the biggest factors in the team’s poor season.

The right-hander, 0-1 with a 1.19 ERA and 15 saves in 16 opportunities for Atlanta, was not needed in the Braves’ 7-3 win over Washington on Wednesday.

Colorado will counter Smoltz with Byung-Hyun Kim (8-11, 5.30), who’s 1-5 with a 6.90 ERA in his last eight starts.

Kim pitched well against his former club Friday, yielding three runs and nine hits with five strikeouts in seven innings against Arizona, but suffered a 5-1 loss.

“Kim gave us a very competitive start,” Hurdle said. “He was able to keep things simple, keep them slow. He stayed out of big innings. He did a fine job.”

The right-hander will be making his second career start against Atlanta. He gave up one run and three hits in five innings on May 11, 2005, not factoring in the decision in a 6-5 win.

Kim made 11 relief appearances against the Braves while with the Diamondbacks, going 0-0 with three saves and a 9.00 ERA in those games.

The Rockies, who lost 7-4 to San Francisco on Wednesday, are eight games out of the wild card.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Smoltz StL vs. B. Kim SF
16-9 Record 8-12
3.49 ERA 5.57
211 K 129
55 BB 61
1.19 WHIP 1.55

Scoreboard

Thursday, Sep 21