Smokin' Ace

Atlanta ace John Smoltz flirted with history the last time he took the mound.

Smoltz will be looking to build on one of the most dominant outings of his long career as the Braves wrap up a three-game series with the NL East-leading New York Mets on Wednesday at Shea Stadium.

Smoltz (13-7, 3.02 ERA) took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Friday's 7-1 win over Washington before Ronnie Belliard led of the inning with a single on his last pitch of the night. The 40-year-old right-hander, the only pitcher in baseball history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves, has never tossed a no-hitter.

He said afterwards that throwing 48 pitches through the first three innings cost him the chance to accomplish the feat.

"It had a chance to be a magical night," said Smoltz, who struck out 10. "I really felt like it would be. Unfortunately, I ran out of gas."

The only one-hitter Smoltz has ever thrown came in 1999 against Cincinnati. The only time he took a no-hitter into the ninth was in 1990, when Philadelphia's Lenny Dykstra hit a one-out double, and Smoltz wound up with a two-hitter.

Smoltz used a softer slider against the Nationals along with his faster one and has been working a two-seam fastball into his repertoire.

"At his age, what he's doing is unbelievable," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "It's fun to watch."

Smoltz is the undisputed ace of the Braves' staff this season and is 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA over his last seven starts. Atlanta (74-71) will need him to stay hot to make a late push for the wild card.

Atlanta pounded the Mets 13-5 on Tuesday, but are 8 1/2 games behind them with 17 games left. They remained five games behind San Diego for the NL wild card lead.

"We've got to reel off a bunch of wins," manager Bobby Cox said.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made New York -110 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Atlanta -105 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Smoltz has faced the Mets (82-62) more times than any other team, going 17-14 with a 3.43 ERA in 67 career outings, including 39 starts.

He is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in five starts against New York this season, but lost to friend and former teammate Tom Glavine on Sept. 2 in his last start against the Mets. Smoltz allowed three runs in seven innings in the 3-2 loss in Atlanta.

Tuesday's win was the first in five games against New York for the Braves, who were swept at Turner Field in a three-game series between the teams Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Atlanta won for the fourth time in six games despite being without star third baseman Chipper Jones for a second straight game.

Jones, who is batting .330 with 25 home runs, 39 doubles and 87 RBIs, was a late scratch Monday with a strained muscle on his right side and is day to day. However, center fielder Andruw Jones, who did not play in the series opener because of the flu, returned Tuesday and went 0-for-3 with a run.

The Mets had won four straight and nine of 10 coming into Tuesday's game, but remained six games ahead of second-place Philadelphia. Shortstop Jose Reyes had a career-high three doubles, tying the single-game franchise record last set by Carlos Beltran on Aug. 8, 2006.

Reyes is batting .362 (25-for-69) with four triples, two homers and 10 RBIs in 17 games against the Braves this season

In the finale, New York will hand the ball to John Maine (14-9, 3.80), who was battered for six runs in 4 1-3 innings in a 7-0 loss in Cincinnati last Wednesday. He has allowed six runs in four of his last seven outings.

Maine's only two previous starts against the Braves came this season. He is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in those outings, but allowed just one run in seven innings of a 7-1 win in Atlanta on Aug. 31 in his last start.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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