On Wednesday, as Smoltz announced his season was finished, Atlanta was still struggling with closure.
One day after blowing another ninth-inning lead, the Braves will try to rebound on Thursday when they look to close their series with a third win in four days over the visiting Florida Marlins.
Smoltz, the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves, has already had four elbow surgeries and will now undergo season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, which he originally injured almost one year ago.
He came off the disabled list on Monday after missing five weeks, and instead of starting - which he’d done for his last 105 games - he came back as a closer.
But Smoltz - who was second in the majors with 144 saves between 2002 and 2004 - hadn’t closed a game since Oct. 2, 2004, and he couldn’t close Monday’s either. He gave up two runs on three hits in the ninth, and though the Braves (31-29) went on to win 7-5 in 10 innings, Smoltz knew his latest comeback effort was already over.
“I certainly was prepared for it. I never had two days in a row where I felt good,” Smoltz said. “I realized an hour afterward that the pain was just too great and I couldn’t continue.”
Atlanta’s bullpen, which had blown six saves in 15 opportunities through Tuesday, was back to using a closer-by-committee approach on Wednesday, and it added another blown save to its total.
The Braves led 4-2 heading into the ninth, but Manny Acosta allowed four runs - and two homers - while retiring only one batter and Florida (32-26) walked away with a 6-4 victory.
“You’re not going to hold them all the time,” said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox.
Jair Jurrjens (5-3, 3.45 ERA) can give the Braves - who are 24-8 at Turner Field - their seventh home series win on Thursday. The 22-year-old right-hander hasn’t picked up a loss in either of his past two starts, but he hasn’t looked good, failing to go five innings in either.
Jurrjens lasted 4 1-3 innings Saturday at Cincinnati, allowing six runs on nine hits and six walks in Atlanta’s 8-7 loss.
In Jurrjens’ only start against the Marlins, the rookie right-hander allowed two runs on four hits over six innings, but the Braves lost 4-0 on April 15.
Florida had lost six of seven overall - all on the road - prior to Wednesday’s victory, and on Thursday they’ll look to win back-to-back road games for the first time since sweeping Washington from May 9-11 while closing out their current trip at 4-6.
Ricky Nolasco (5-3, 4.48) will be on the mound, and lately that’s been a recipe for success for the Marlins. He’s won his last three starts while posting a 2.89 ERA.
He pitched 6 2-3 innings on Saturday, allowing two runs in a 7-3 win at Philadelphia.
“I thought the player of the game was Ricky,” manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team’s official Web site after the win. “To get that deep in the ball game against (a hot-hitting team), you’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
The Marlins will likely have the hot-hitting Dan Uggla back in the lineup on Thursday after he missed Wednesday’s game for the birth of his child.
Florida’s second baseman went 4-for-8 with two homers and three RBIs in the first two games of the series and leads the team with 18 homers and 41 RBIs.