The NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks have been making Atlanta their home away from home recently.
They’ll be trying for their second straight series sweep at Turner Field on Sunday when they wrap up a three-game set against John Smoltz and the Braves.
The Diamondbacks (71-53) are 10-2 against the Braves (64-59) since the beginning of last season, including a four-game sweep in Atlanta June 1-4, 2006. They won two of three in Arizona July 27-29 in the only other series between the teams this year.
However, the Diamondbacks have been winning everywhere, most recently four straight and 21 of their last 26. Arizona beat Atlanta 12-6 on Saturday, improving to 34-30 away from home—the second-best road record in the NL behind the New York Mets.
Pitcher Micah Owings, who lives in nearby Gainesville, Ga., went 4-for-5 with six RBIs, four runs and two long homers and earned his first win since June 20.
“It was a nice little homecoming for him,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We knew he could pitch, and we knew he could hit a little, too. Without him tonight, it’s a different game.”
The Braves, meanwhile, lost their third straight, falling 5 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading Mets and 1 1/2 behind second-place Philadelphia.
“We need wins right now,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur told the Braves’ official team Web site. “We need to get them and we need to get a lot of them soon.”
Including Owings’ two homers and Stephen Drew’s solo shot, Atlanta’s pitchers have allowed 10 homers over the last three games. However, Atlanta will have its staff ace in Smoltz on the mound in the finale.
Smoltz (10-6, 3.09 ERA) has gone winless in a season-worst four straight starts, going 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA. He gave up three runs in six innings on Tuesday and was in line for the win, but ended up without a decision in the Braves’ 5-4 win.
“Smoltzie found it about the fourth inning,” manager Bobby Cox told the Braves’ team site. “He didn’t warm up particularly good today with his control for the first time all year, and it showed a little bit. He’d get guys with two strikes and couldn’t make a good pitch that he wanted to. He struggled a little bit, but he came through really good.”
Smoltz is 2-2 with a 3.51 ERA and three saves in five chances in 13 career appearances—six starts—against the Diamondbacks. However, he hasn’t defeated them since June 18, 1999, in Arizona and hasn’t won at home against them since April 22, 1998 in his first career outing against the Diamondbacks.
The 40-year-old right-hander gave up three runs in seven innings in the Braves’ 10-inning, 4-3 loss on July 28 in his lone 2007 appearance against Arizona.
The Diamondbacks brought up Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 4.23) from Triple-A Tucson to start the finale in place of Byung-Hyun Kim, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday. Petit has already had two stints with the Diamondbacks this season, going 2-3 with a 4.23 ERA in seven starts, and manager Bob Melvin said that having him in the wings made the decision to drop Kim easier.
“That’s why we probably pulled the plug a little bit quicker on Kim, is that we have a guy that’s been pitching pretty well for us,” Melvin said.
Petit made his only previous start against the Braves on July 27, allowing five runs in 5 2-3 innings in Arizona’s 11-inning, 8-7 win. He also threw three scoreless innings of relief for Florida without getting a decision on May 17 last season in the Marlins’ 11-inning, 6-4 loss at Turner Field.