Braves 3, Phillies 1
ATLANTA (AP)—About an hour before the game, Travis Smith found out he’d be starting.
The journeyman didn’t want to squander the chance.
Filling in for the ailing Mike Hampton, Smith pitched five solid innings and earned his first major league win in more than two years, leading the Atlanta Braves past the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 on Monday.
“It seems like a long time,” Smith said. “I’m fortunate they gave me a shot today.”
Andruw Jones homered for the fourth time in six games and had two RBIs. He also prevented a potential run by throwing out a runner at the plate.
Smith (1-3), who has spent most of the season at Triple-A, got the start when Hampton couldn’t go because of a stiff neck. The 31-year-old replacement allowed five hits and a run before giving way to the bullpen.
It was enough for Smith’s first win since July 25, 2002, when he pitched for St. Louis.
“For him to pitch under these circumstances, really not knowing until the last minute, he gave us a huge boost,” said Braves closer John Smoltz, who got the final five outs for his 36th save.
Smith has made four starts for the Braves this season, losing twice to the Phillies. On his third try, he felt rusty, having gone more than a week since his last appearance.
“My fastball was a little erratic,” Smith said. “I tried to throw strikes and make them put the ball in play.”
The strategy worked. He didn’t strike out anyone, but it didn’t matter. Four relievers finished up for the Braves, who won for the 12th time in 14 games.
The Phillies, expected to threaten Atlanta’s streak of 12 straight division titles, instead dropped 13 1/2 games behind in the NL East. They have only 25 games remaining and virtually no chance of catching the Braves.
“It’s frustrating, losing a game like that,” David Bell said. “We had some chances. They made good pitches on us.”
Jones got hold of a bad pitch from Eric Milton (13-4), hitting a solo homer in the second to put Atlanta ahead. The Braves added two more runs in the third, despite getting just one ball out of the infield.
Milton walked the first two hitters, then Eli Marrero singled to right to load the bases. Julio Franco dribbled a grounder that barely cleared the dirt in front of the plate, and Milton bobbled the barehanded pickup as J.D. Drew streaked across home. Jones picked up his second RBI with another infield hit, a grounder down the third-base line that left Bell with no choice but to make a futile heave toward the plate.
“They hit some balls that hit the right spots,” Milton said. “When you’re playing .500 ball like us, things like that happen to you.”
Smith retired the first nine hitters before the Phillies broke through in the fourth. Jimmy Rollins led off with a double and moved to third on Placido Polanco’s single. Smith had a chance to escape the inning when Bobby Abreu lined into a double play, but Jim Thome singled to left to pull the Phillies within 3-1.
That was as close as they got. Smith got a big hand from his defense in the fifth when Jones threw out Jason Michaels attempting to score from second on a single up the middle.
“They took a gamble, and I came out on top,” Jones said. “The guy hit the ball pretty hard, I got a good jump on it and came out with a perfect throw.”
Michaels managed to avoid the initial tag by catcher Eddie Perez, but couldn’t get a hand on the plate. Perez got the runner as he attempted to scramble back toward home.
“That throw!” Rollins said of Jones. “He’s crazy. He’s too good.”
Hampton, 9-1 in his last 11 starts, has been bothered for several days by a stiff neck. He’ll continue to receive treatment and rejoin the rotation when the pain subsides.
Smith made sure that Hampton wasn’t missed.
A stiff breeze blew throughout the game, foreshadowing Tropical Storm Frances. The storm came ashore in the Florida Panhandle and was expected to threaten Tuesday night’s game as it moves into Georgia with torrential rain. … Drew managed to extend his hitting streak to 15 games even though he walked three times. He hit a ground-rule double in the first, then walked in his next three plate appearances, giving him seven over the last two games. … Braves C Johnny Estrada didn’t get to the ballpark until the third inning. His wife, Jennifer, delivered the couple’s third child at 10:45 a.m. Johnny Estrada IV weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces. … Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard had his first major league hit in the fifth, a pinch-hit single. His first RBI was denied when Michaels was thrown out at the plate.