PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Eric Milton looked liked his old self
Milton pitched seven strong innings in his longest outing of the
season and Jim Thome hit his 12th home run of the season to lead
the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on
Milton, who was limited to three starts last season because of
knee surgery, gave up one run on three hits. He struck out a
season-high eight batters and walked three.
Milton, who lasted six innings in five of his previous nine
starts, has won four of his last five decisions and he lowered his
ERA from 4.47 to 4.08.
"I had a whole year off and I'm trying to get back to where I
was," Milton said. "I feel I'm getting stronger and sharper with
each start. I think I have a little bit more to offer though."
Milton's performance was key according to Philadelphia manager
Larry Bowa, who has stressed that his starters must begin to pitch
deeper into games.
"He did exactly what we need him to do," Bowa said. "It was
important for him to get seven innings. We have a lot of guys that
have pitched in a lot of games out in the bullpen."
Coming off his first loss with Philadelphia in his last start,
Milton (6-1) retired 10 straight to start the game. His only
difficulty came in the fourth when he gave up an RBI triple to
Andruw Jones that tied the game 1-1.
In the seventh inning, Milton walked two but ended the threat by
striking out pinch-hitter Chipper Jones.
Thome's two-run homer off Armando Almanza in the eighth was the
393rd of his career and his first since May 18.
"This place has played like a home run park and you have to
take it," Thome said of the recently opened Citizens Bank Park.
Smith, who was called up late Saturday from Triple-A Richmond
when Horacio Ramirez was placed on the 15-day disabled list, gave
up three hits in six innings. The 31-year-old right-hander, who
hadn't pitched in the majors since going 4-2 for St. Louis in 2002,
walked two and struck out five.
"My goal was to establish my fastball and throw it for strikes.
I thought I did that," said Smith, who pitched in Korea for the SK
Wyverns organization in 2003.
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox seemed impressed with Smith's debut
with the Braves.
"He pitched outstanding and he'll start again," Cox said.
His return to the big leagues got off to a shaky start. The
second batter he faced, David Bell, hit a solo shot for his sixth
homer of the season.
"I hung a curveball and he did what he should do," Smith said.
"I knew it as soon as I threw it."
After that he settled down, escaping a first-and-third, no-out
jam in the second inning by striking out Mike Lieberthal and Tomas
Perez and getting Milton to ground out.
Smith retired the next 13 batters in a row until Bell's single
in the sixth.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was a late scratch from
the starting lineup with a right ankle injury. Bowa found out 10
minutes before game time that Rollins couldn't go. Tomas Perez
started in his place. ... Thome's homer was the Phillies' 37th in
the month of May, breaking a franchise record set in 1999. ...
Chipper Jones didn't start for the second straight day after
bruising his left quadriceps when he got hit by a pitch on Friday.
... RHP Antonio Alfonseca narrowly escaped injury in the seventh
when Perez hit a hard line drive back to the mound. Alfonseca just
got his glove up in front of his head to deflect the ball. He
quickly recovered and threw out Perez.<