PHILADELPHIA (AP)—John Smoltz was bothered by a sore hamstring and he started to tire in the sticky air. None of it slowed him down enough to give him trouble with Philadelphia.
Smoltz (9-5) continued his run of brilliant starts, improving to 5-0 with three complete games in his last five starts. The 38-year-old Smoltz went 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA in June with complete games in his last two starts.
Smoltz had a solid six-inning outing this time, giving up just one run and five hits while striking out seven.
“The only thing that made it easier was two great three-run homers,” Smoltz said. “I probably didn’t pitch my best, but I made the pitches when I had to.”
After pitching 43 1-3 innings in his last five starts, Cox decided to give Smoltz a short stint because of a tender left hamstring and a humid night. Smoltz said he hurt the hamstring a couple of starts ago and pitched through it until Friday when he said it “zapped him.”
“Thankfully, I had my slider today because that was the pitch that bailed me out,” he said.
He mastered the fading Phillies, who lost for the 12th time in 16 games and were criticized before the game by closer Billy Wagner who said the team wasn’t good enough to get to the playoffs.
The Phillies (40-40) fell back to .500 for the first time since June 2.
Atlanta snapped a 1-all tie with a three-run fourth against struggling starter Vicente Padilla (3-8).
Padilla gave up nine hits and four runs in four innings and lost his third straight start.
“We have to get him going,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Padilla started the season on the disabled list while recovering from right triceps tendinitis and has pitched poorly since returning to the rotation on April 19. Only once in 12 starts has he pitched six innings.
Before the game, general manager Ed Wade said Padilla needed to show he was worthy of keeping his spot in the rotation.
“His location and the velocity on his fastball didn’t seem like it was there,” Lieberthal said. “He’s been a dominant pitcher before. We’re kind of waiting for him to get back there.”
Reliever Geoff Geary didn’t fare any better, giving up Jones’ major league-leading 26th homer in the sixth for a 7-1 lead. Jones started July much the same way he ended June when he set the team record for homers in a month with 13.
“He’s having a lot better at-bats than he’s ever had since he’s been here,” Cox said.
Adam LaRoche hit a two-run homer in the ninth to make it 9-1.
The Phillies played without first baseman Jim Thome, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow, the second time the slumping slugger has been on the DL this season.
The Phillies recalled first baseman Ryan Howard from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Thome. Howard was originally in the starting lineup, but did not make it to the game on time and was replaced at first by Tomas Perez.
Perez drove in Philadelphia’s only run in the second.
Certainly this was the kind of game that drove Wagner to criticize his team, first to a Philadelphia newspaper, then to the rest of the media before the game.
Wagner admonished his teammates for not having enough intensity, saying that when the Phillies get behind “we’ve quit.”
“The way we’re playing now, if anybody’s fool enough to think we’re a playoff team the way we’re playing right now, they’re crazy. We haven’t played well,” he said.
RHP Tim Worrell could be activated as early as Monday’s game against Pittsburgh. Worrell, who was the setup man for Wagner, was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in 14 games, before going on the disabled list on May 6 with personal issues. “There’s still that unknown with coming back, even though I have all this experience,” he said. … LHP Randy Wolf had season-ending reconstructive elbow surgery on Friday that could sideline the left-hander until next July. Wolf will start rehab on July 19. … Smoltz’ seven strikeouts gave him 2,494 in his career, moving him past Warren Spahn for second on Atlanta’s career list.