Smoltz hits milestone in loss
Veteran gets 3,000th K, but Braves' bats stifled vs. Nationals
ATLANTA -- As much as the Braves wanted to see John Smoltz reach 3,000 strikeouts, they hoped to give him a victory a lot more.
It didn't happen.
"Very disappointing," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "It was a special day and we didn't do our part."
The Braves were handcuffed by young left-hander John Lannan and saw their winning streak end at five games with a 6-0 loss to the Nationals, as the bullpen gave up five runs in the ninth inning Tuesday night.
"A tremendous performance by Smoltz," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's not going to throw the ball any better than that."
Smoltz (3-1) was dominant over his seven innings at Turner Field, striking out 10 while becoming just the 16th player in Major League history to reach the 3,000-K milestone.
"Pitch like that, you should win," Cox said. "But the kid pitched good. He kept the ball down all night long."
The one run the Nationals got against Smoltz was enough, because Lannan stifled the Braves just 10 days after being pounded in a 10-2 loss to Atlanta in Washington.
"He pitched in and out and threw a changeup," Cox said of Lannan. "He was tough. We got him in Washington, but he was a completely different pitcher."
Lannan (1-2) gave up five hits in seven innings, the same as Smoltz. But the 23-year-old didn't allow a runner to even get to third base while recording just his third career victory.
"He was completely different," McCann said. "He kept the ball down and didn't give us much to hit. We hit him good in that first game, and he made the adjustments. You just have to tip your hat to him."
"I don't think we were pressing," Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson said. "I don't know what happened. We just didn't hit at all."
Neither did the Nationals, at least when Smoltz was on the mound.
Felipe Lopez was Smoltz's victim on strikeout No. 3,000, chasing an 88-mph splitter on a 2-2 pitch for the second out of the third inning. The 10 strikeouts against the Nationals pushed Smoltz's career total to 3,006.
Smoltz, 40, struck out two in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings while reaching double figures in strikeouts for the 45th game in his career. He hadn't done it in back-to-back starts since 1997, when he fanned 12 at Houston on Aug. 19 and 11 against Cincinnati on Aug. 24.
Smoltz, who came into the game with an 0.56 ERA, threw 105 pitches, 68 of them for strikes. He has 20 strikeouts in his past 12 innings, and has allowed just 15 hits and two runs in his four starts after opening the season on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder.
The Nationals, though, had the only run they need before Smoltz quickly reached the 3,000 milestone. Lastings Milledge doubled with two outs in the second inning and scored on a double by former Brave Willie Harris, who lined a 3-2 pitch to right-center field.
It stayed a one-run game until the ninth inning, when reliever Jorge Campillo's throwing error led to a five-run breakthrough by the Nationals. Only one of the runs was earned, but the game was now out of reach for the suddenly scuffling Braves.
Third baseman Chipper Jones saw his hitting streak end at 13 games with an 0-for-4 night, and only four different Braves reached base. Yunel Escobar and Matt Diaz each had two hits, while Jeff Francoeur reached three times on a single and two walks.
It was a good night at the plate for Francoeur, but nothing like in the Braves' first game against Lannan.
In that game, the Braves right fielder had two homers and seven RBIs.
This time, Lannan was a different pitcher and the Braves were different hitters.
For Smoltz and the crowd of 23,482, the timing couldn't have been worse.
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.