The stakes won’t be quite as high this time around as Smoltz and the Braves open a three-game series with Bonds and the Giants on Tuesday at Turner Field.
Bonds entered his July 23 matchup with Smoltz (10-6, 3.03 ERA) and the Braves (62-56) with 753 home runs, two shy of former Brave Hank Aaron’s all-time record. Bonds has hit eight career homers against Smoltz—tied with four others for his most against any pitcher—but went 0-for-2 with a walk against the 40-year-old right-hander.
Bonds is 19-for-66 (.288) all-time against Smoltz, but has not homered against him since connecting twice on Aug. 9, 1998.
“We’ve battled for so long,” Smoltz said after giving up two runs—one earned—in seven innings of the 4-2 win. “I can’t think of pitchers other than (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine … we’ve all stayed in the National League, been there 20 years and so has he, so the history speaks for itself.”
Bonds’ record-breaking homer didn’t come until last Tuesday, when he connected off Washington’s Mike Bacsik. Bonds, who is at 758 now, said Monday that next season would likely be his last.
The 43-year-old left fielder said he wanted to stick around and try to pick up 3,000 hits and his first World Series title. He went 1-for-3 in the opening game of Monday’s doubleheader against Pittsburgh, a 3-1 loss, giving him 2,919 hits entering this series.
However, San Francisco (50-68) will probably overhaul its roster in the offseason to get younger, and could cut ties with Bonds, who has been with the Giants since 1993.
“Yeah, I need to win a championship and get 3,000 hits, that would be nice to (end) my career,” Bonds said.
Bonds received a standing ovation in Pittsburgh, where he started his career in 1986. He is usually booed when he returns there, though unlike in other road stadiums, it is more because of his postseason failures with the Pirates from 1990-92 than allegations of steroid use.
The Pirates lost a 3-2 series lead in 1991 against Atlanta and a 2-0, ninth-inning lead in Game 7 in Atlanta in 1992. In ’92, the Braves scored the winning run when slow-footed Sid Bream made it home ahead of Bonds’ off-line throw to the plate, a play that has forever haunted Pittsburgh fans.
Bonds sat out the second game Monday, but the Giants won 10-3 behind Ryan Klesko’s grand slam to end a five-game losing streak. They were swept at home in three games by the Pirates over the weekend before the doubleheader in Pittsburgh.
The Braves, meanwhile, are coming off a 3-3 road trip that included series against division rivals New York and Philadelphia. They took two of three from the Mets before dropping two against the Phillies, including Sunday’s 5-3 defeat.
Atlanta returns home in third place in the East, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets and one-half game behind the Phillies.
Now, Smoltz will be trying to snap a season-worst three-game winless stretch. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA over that span, and the Braves have lost in each of the outings.
Smoltz allowed three runs in 6 1-3 innings but didn’t get a decision in Atlanta’s 4-3 loss to the Mets on Wednesday. He tweaked his back in the sixth inning, but said it was not a serious injury.
“It doesn’t feel like a truck hit me,” he told the Braves’ official team Web site on Thursday. “Just a small car.”
Smoltz is 12-15 with a 4.11 ERA in 46 career appearances, including 37 starts, against the Giants.
The Giants are expected to hand the ball to Scott Atchison (0-0, 1.17), who will make his first major league start. He has made six relief appearances this season, most recently throwing a scoreless inning in San Francisco’s 8-7 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday.
Atchison, who also made 31 appearances for Seattle in 2004 and 2005, made 92 starts in the minors, but just 11 since the start of 2003.