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09/11/06 11:03 PM ET

Smoltz injured in loss

Right-hander strains abductor muscle in right leg

ATLANTA -- John Smoltz's elbow and shoulder are just fine. But if his strained right abductor muscle doesn't heal enough before this weekend, he'll likely miss Saturday's scheduled start against the Marlins.

During the third inning of the Braves 8-3 loss to the Cubs at Turner Field on Monday night, Smoltz felt some tightness in the leg muscle. He exited after allowing his second opposite-field, three-run homer of the evening.

"It almost feels like a bad cramp," Smoltz said. "It grabs me. The problem with that location is that I have to stay back and use that part of my leg to throw a baseball. When you don't feel comfortable doing that, you're not going to throw too many good pitches."

Smoltz, who surrendered three-run homers to Jacque Jones and Derrek Lee, felt a pop in his abductor muscle during his June 23 start against the Devil Rays and was able to make his next scheduled start. The muscle hadn't provided any further problems until he walked Freddie Bynum to begin the third inning.

After a short visit with Braves manager Bobby Cox and head trainer Jeff Porter, Smoltz issued another walk to Aramis Ramirez, and then surrendered Lee's three-run homer that gave the Cubs a 6-0 lead.

Because he didn't feel a pop this time, Smoltz is hopeful that he'll be able to make his next start.

"If the game would have been closer, I would have been able to keep pitching," Smoltz said.

Smoltz, who has lost three straight starts since going through a stretch where he lost just once in 14 starts, will continue to test the injury over the next few days. If he's not able to push off the pitching rubber, he'll likely be forced to miss a start for the first time this season.

"After Tampa, I recovered fine," Smoltz said in refrerence to the start against the Devil Rays. "So hopefully this won't be that big of a deal."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.