If his first start is any indication, Smoltz will likely be staying in the Cardinals’ rotation for a while.
The eight-time All-Star looks to build on an impressive St. Louis debut in the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Friday.
Smoltz (1-0, 0.00 ERA) signed with Boston in the offseason, and had no success in a Red Sox uniform, going 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA in eight starts. The 42-year-old right-hander was eventually released, and looked like an entirely different pitcher in his Cardinals debut.
Smoltz, who signed with St. Louis (77-55) on Aug. 19, allowed three hits while striking out nine—including a career-high seven straight—in five scoreless innings of Sunday’s 5-2 victory over San Diego.
“Certainly, I can’t go in and try to duplicate it,” he said. “But at the same time I want to be able to go out and keep the ballclub in the game, and allow the crowd to be as loud as possible. And certainly pitch as deep as I can.”
Smoltz makes his Cardinal debut at Busch Stadium against one of his favorite opponents, but he didn’t have much success against them earlier this year.
In his season debut, Smoltz allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings of a 9-3 loss to the Nationals on June 25. The 1996 NL Cy Young Award winner, who has 21 career wins against the Washington franchise - his most against any opponent - was 5-3 with a 1.68 ERA in his previous eight starts versus the Nationals (46-82).
The Cardinals open this series following Thursday’s 4-3 loss to Houston, just their fourth defeat in 19 games. Despite the loss, St. Louis still leads the second-place Chicago Cubs by nine games—the biggest cushion in the majors — with 33 games to go.
Albert Pujols(notes), the majors’ leader with 40 homers, has hit just one in his last nine games, but is 5 for 8 with two home runs in two games against the Nationals this season. The eight-time All-Star is batting .393 with eight home runs, 10 RBIs, 19 runs and a .532 on-base percentage in 20 games versus Washington since 2006.
The Nationals own the worst record in baseball, but arrive in St. Louis after taking two of three from the Cubs.
“It’s a little confidence boost,” Washington reliever Sean Burnett(notes) told the Nationals’ official Web site after Thursday’s 5-4 win. “We had some good pitching. It gives us confidence to play a good team like that.”
Lannan was tagged for a season-high seven runs and seven hits in a season-low 1 2-3 innings of an 11-9 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday, but didn’t receive a decision. The left-hander has fallen on hard times, going 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA in his last three starts after going 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his first five after the All-Star break.
This will be Lannan’s first outing of the season against the Cardinals after recording a 2.84 ERA in losing two starts against them a year ago. He received no runs of support in those games.