Braves 2, Mets 1
ATLANTA (AP)—For only the second time in a regular-season game, John Smoltz sensed an extra excitement that normally only comes in the postseason.
“Euphoria,” Smoltz said.
For baseball’s all-time leader in postseason wins, the added edge made him feel right at home.
Smoltz became baseball’s first pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves, achieving the feat by throwing seven shutout innings to lead the Atlanta Braves to a 2-1 win over the New York Mets on Thursday night.
Smoltz talked Wednesday of treating his third start of the season against his friend and former teammate Tom Glavine as a normal game, but the milestone changed that.
“I downplayed it as long as I possibly could,” Smoltz said. “I tried not to think about it in any different fashion, but it was just a different game.”
It was different because so much was on the line, including Smoltz’s 200th career win, but it was the same because the Atlanta ace extended his string of strong starts this season.
The Turner Field crowd of 36,660 gave Smoltz a standing ovation after the game. Smoltz lifted his cap to acknowledge the crowd.
“I don’t come out for many things, but I wanted to show them I appreciate it,” Smoltz said.
“I tried to approach games like this as just another day, but when I walked out there, it was different.”
Smoltz, who has 15 postseason wins, said he’s experienced a similar thrill in a regular-season game only once.
“The first time I came out of the bullpen and the crowd went nuts,” he said. “Euphoria. It felt like that again.”
Making his third start of the season against Glavine, his Atlanta teammate from 1988-2002, Smoltz (7-2) became the NL’s first seven-game winner.
The Braves won two of three in the series and improved to 6-3 against the Mets this season while cutting New York’s lead in the NL East to 1 1/2 games.
“We’re not concerned,” said New York’s Shawn Green. “We’re in first place. It’s going to be a battle all year.”
The 40-year-old Smoltz gave up seven hits without a walk and struck out five. In back-to-back wins over Boston and the Mets, Smoltz has thrown 14 scoreless innings while allowing 10 hits and one walk.
Smoltz, 4-1 in May, lowered his ERA from 2.85 to 2.58.
“He’s beyond a Hall of Famer,” said Braves catcher Brian McCann. “He’s amazing. It was awesome. It’s amazing to catch someone like that.”
Said Green: “Smoltz pitched a great game. He’s a tremendous pitcher as a starter and a closer. You have to tip your cap to him.”
Glavine also pitched well, giving up only five hits and two runs in six innings for the Mets, who were denied their sixth straight series win.
“It’s tough to swallow, but you have to put it behind you,” Glavine said.
“When you pitch well and things don’t go your way, it’s hard to put it behind you.”
Bob Wickman pitched out of trouble in the ninth. After a leadoff single by Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green hit a grounder to second base that Kelly Johnson bobbled. Ruben Gotay bunted the runners to second and third, and Delgado scored on a ground out by pinch hitter Julio Franco. Wickman got Reyes to pop to short with the tying runner on third to end the game for his seventh save in nine chances.
Smoltz became the 106th pitcher to reach 200 wins and the first with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. He saved an Atlanta-record 154 games as the Braves’ closer from 2001 through 2004. Dennis Eckersley entered the Hall of Fame in 2004 with 197 wins and 390 saves.
The only pitchers with more wins in Atlanta history are Phil Niekro (266) and Glavine (242).
“I’m happy for him personally,” Glavine said. “I’m not happy it came against us and against me.”
Smoltz is 17-13 with 24 saves in his career against the Mets. This year, he is 2-0 in three matchups with Glavine. The Braves won all three.
Smoltz gave up five hits in the first four innings before retiring 10 straight batters. The streak ended when he gave up seventh-inning singles to Shawn Green and pinch-hitter David Newhan, but Smoltz pitched out of the jam when Jose Reyes ended the inning with a grounder to second baseman Kelly Johnson.
Glavine (5-2) failed in his bid for his 296th career win. The left-hander fell to 3-11 in 18 starts against the Braves despite retiring the last eight batters he faced.
Johnson led off the game with a single up the middle and later scored on Jeff Francoeur’s fly ball to center. The Braves pushed the lead to 2-0 when Diaz led off the second with a homer into the Atlanta bullpen beyond the right-field wall.
The Mets loaded the bases but could not score in the third. Glavine and Carlos Beltran reached on infield hits and Jose Reyes singled to left, but with two outs David Wright was called out when first base umpire Larry Young ruled he did not check his swing on strike three. Wright protested, throwing his bat and helmet in frustration.
3B Chipper Jones was held out after having a cortisone shot in his sore right thumb. … Johnson made a diving stop in shallow right field and threw out Ruben Gotay to end the fourth inning. Paul Lo Duca was on third base, so the play saved a run. … As is their custom, Atlanta fans greeted Glavine with a mixture of boos and cheers. … Wright had three strikeouts.