Two days after signing a contract extension, Atlanta’s ace takes the mound as the Braves continue a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Smoltz (2-1, 4.26 ERA) made his major league debut with the Braves in 1988, and has gone on to a 195-138 career record with 154 saves and a 3.28 ERA. Smoltz, who spent nearly four seasons as Atlanta’s closer before returning to the rotation, is one of only two pitchers, along with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, to record least 150 wins and 150 saves in his career.
On Thursday, Smoltz agreed to a contract extension that guarantees him about $14 million in 2008 and includes a $12 million option for 2009 that becomes guaranteed if the 1996 NL Cy Young Award winner pitches 200 innings next year. The club has an option for 2010, at a cost of $13 million if he pitches 200 innings in ’09 or $12 million if he falls short of that total.
“This doesn’t change how I’ll approach every start I make this year,” Smoltz told the Braves’ official Web site. “It just gives me peace of my mind, because it’s always been my dream to play my whole career in one city and that opportunity is here now.”
Smoltz gave up six runs in 5 2-3 innings but escaped without a decision in Atlanta’s 9-6 win over the New York Mets and former teammate Tom Glavine on Sunday. However, he had allowed just nine earned runs in 26 total innings in his first four starts.
The right-hander is 10-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 30 career appearances, including 16 starts, against the Rockies.
Eight of the runs came with two outs for the Braves, increasing their major league-leading total in that situation to 63.
The Rockies (9-14) fell short despite scoring three runs in the ninth on Garrett Atkins’ double off Atlanta closer Bob Wickman, who had his second straight rough outing after blowing his first save of the season Wednesday at Florida.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki added his first homer of the season for Colorado, which lost for the sixth time in eight games.
Jason Hirsh (2-1, 3.16) will take the mound for Colorado on Saturday. The 6-foot-8 right-hander allowed just two runs in seven innings of Sunday’s 4-2 win over San Diego, beating another of Smoltz’s former teammates, Greg Maddux, for the second time this season.
“Throughout the game, whenever a situation arose, he dealt with it,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Hirsh, who has never faced the Braves. “He kept his composure.”