Smoltz (1-1, 3.15 ERA) pitched two-hit shutout ball through seven innings at home against Washington last Thursday, but the Nationals scored against him twice in the eighth for the only runs of their 2-0 victory. Smoltz suffered the loss despite holding his opponent to three runs or fewer for his seventh straight start, dating to last September.
“I try to pitch to the situation, but this team was not going to keep losing the way it was losing,” said Smoltz, who is 16-9 with a 2.65 ERA lifetime versus the Nationals franchise but has dropped three of this last five decisions to Washington. “Tonight they bowed their necks and won a game that could start something good for them.”
Smoltz was right. The Nationals (4-9), who had dropped six straight games before that contest, have now won three of four, including a 5-1 victory in Monday’s series opener - a game played with temperatures in the forties and high winds.
“I’m one guy who basically lives for this,” said Washington manager Manny Acta, whose team has a chance to sweep the Braves in a series for the first time since the Nationals moved from Montreal in 2005. “And I don’t know if I would have made it to the ballpark today as a fan. I was surprised at the amount of people who showed up. The plan was, hey, we’ve got to be out there, so we might as well give it all and win the ballgame.”
Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is batting .350 (7-for-20) with two homers and two doubles in his career against Smoltz. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single in last week’s matchup against the 39-year-old right-hander.
On Monday, Dmitri Young went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs as the Nationals evened the season series with the Braves at two games apiece. Young is batting .357 (10-for-28) with six RBIs in eight games at RFK Stadium this season.
The Braves (8-4), meanwhile, were held to five hits and lost for the third time in four games. Chipper Jones extended his hitting streak to seven games with a fifth-inning single, but Atlanta went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine men on base.
The Braves are batting .202 over their last four games, and .120 (3-for-25) over that span in RBI situations.
“I think it’s a little bit of everything right now,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur told the team’s official Web site. “We felt we should have won tonight. … It’s just some frustration all around.”
Jerome Williams (0-2, 4.91) will get the start for Washington. The right-hander took the loss at Atlanta last Wednesday, when he allowed two runs in five innings of an 8-3 Nationals defeat. He has not received any runs of support during either of his outings this season.
Williams is 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in four career starts against the Braves.