Smoltz Turns 40

One day shy of his 40th birthday, John Smoltz shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he appears to be getting better.

Smoltz looks to win his fourth straight start and record his 199th career victory Monday night when the Atlanta Braves open a four-game series against the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium.

Oddsmakers have made Atlanta -180 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 7 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Atlanta -180 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Smoltz (5-1, 3.25 ERA), who turns 40 on Tuesday, has been very good this season and even better in his last three starts, winning all three with a 1.71 ERA. He has pitched at least six innings in all but one of his eight outings, yielding two runs or fewer six times.

The right-hander outpitched good friend and former teammate Greg Maddux in a 3-2 win over San Diego on Wednesday, allowing two runs over seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.

He is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts this season against the Nationals.

Atlanta (24-13) will try to rebound after it had a season-best five-game win streak snapped Sunday with a 13-2 loss at Pittsburgh.

Rookie Anthony Lerew, pitching before about 40 friends and family members, struggled in his second career start, allowing five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings.

The Braves were without third baseman Chipper Jones for the second straight day due to a sore wrist, thumbs and a quadriceps injury. He could return to the lineup Monday.

"If I can swing the bat naturally with minimal pain, then yeah, I'll play," Jones said on the Braves' official Web site. "But I'm not going to do us any good like this. I can't do what I need to do up there."

The Nationals (12-25) are coming off their first series win of the season after completing a three-game home sweep of Florida with a 6-4 victory Sunday.

Jason Simontacchi got his first win in nearly four years and Cristian Guzman got his first RBIs since September 2005 for Washington, which had lost eight in a row at the end of their last road trip.

"We get our first sweep today, and we've got a lot of catch-up to do still,'' manager Manny Acta said. "We need every win we can get, and it's not going to get any easier, so it was nice to do that.''

A victory Monday would give the Nationals their first four-game win streak since a five-game run Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

Washington is expected to have closer Chad Cordero available for this game following a stint on the bereavement list. Cordero hasn't pitched since May 6.

Jason Bergmann (0-3, 3.07) hopes for some more run support when he takes the mound for the Nationals. Despite an impressive ERA in seven starts, Bergmann hasn't enjoyed a win since he beat the New York Mets in relief on Sept. 15, 2005. He is 0-4 with a 4.64 ERA in 14 career starts.

The right-hander pitched very well Wednesday at Milwaukee, although he failed to receive a decision after yielding one run and two hits in six innings in a 3-1 loss.

The Nationals have scored five runs in his last three starts.

"Nah, I'm not overly concerned," he said about the run support. "I'm more concerned with quality starts, keeping us in the game."

This is the second time this season that Bergmann will be matched up against Smoltz. He limited the Braves to one hit in six innings and struck out a career-high eight in Washington's 2-0 victory at Atlanta on April 12.

Ryan Zimmerman is one of the few Nationals that has had some success against Smoltz. He is 8-for-23 (.348) with two homers.

The Braves have won three of five against the Nationals this season, splitting two games at RFK Stadium.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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