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Smoltz allows first-inning grand slam in return to rotation

MIAMI (AP) -- John Smoltz's first start in nearly four years
ranked with the worst of his career.

Juan Encarnacion hit a grand slam to cap a five-run first
inning, Smoltz lasted just five outs and Carlos Delgado had four
hits in his Florida debut to lead the Marlins over the Atlanta Braves 9-0 Tuesday in their opener.

Delgado swung at all three pitches in his first at-bat and
missed -- Smoltz's lone strikeout. He got three singles and a double
after that, going 4-for-5 with three RBI.

Smoltz, making the transition from All-Star closer back to the
rotation, threw 65 pitches and gave up seven runs, six of them
earned. A Marlins' record crowd of 57,405 taunted him with tomahawk
chops as he left the game, his ERA 32.40.

By pitching 1 2/3 innings, the former Cy Young Award winner
matched his shortest outing as a starter. It happened three other
times, most recently on May 3, 1994, also against Florida.

Josh Beckett, starting on Opening Day for the third year in a
row, earned the win for the first time. He allowed two hits in six
innings, and three relievers completed a five-hitter.

Mike Lowell had a pivotal at-bat in the first inning and
contributed two RBI singles. Luis Castillo scored three times.

The Marlins finished with baseball's worst spring training
record at 11-20, but manager Jack McKeon repeatedly said his team
would be ready when the bell rang. Two hours before the game, he
stood in the dugout laughing as he rang a brass bell.

And his team was ready.

Making his first start since June 9, 2001, Smoltz walked
Castillo and allowed a single to Miguel Cabrera with one out in the
first, then nearly escaped unscathed. He retired Delgado for the
second out, and the count to Lowell reached 2-2.

Lowell fouled off two pitches, took a ball and fouled off two
more, then singled home the season's first run. Paul Lo Duca fouled
off a pair of two-strike pitches, then singled to load the bases,
and Encarnacion hit a 1-0 delivery for his second career grand slam
and a 5-0 lead.

The crowd erupted and coaxed Encarnacion out of the dugout for a
curtain call. It was an even bigger ovation than when Dan Marino
was introduced before the game to throw out the ceremonial first
pitch.

Smoltz walked Beckett starting the second, then ran into more
two-out trouble. Cabrera singled and advanced on a passed ball, and
when Delgado singled home two runs, Braves manager Bobby Cox went
to the bullpen.

Smoltz was unaccustomed to struggling against the Marlins. He
came into the game with a streak of 31 1/3 consecutive innings of
scoreless relief against them dating to May 2001.

The Braves, beginning their bid for a 14th consecutive division
title, fell to 16-24 on Opening Day since moving to Atlanta.

Beckett went to 3-2 on the first three batters. He walked the
first two but escaped by retiring Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and
Adam LaRoche. Beckett also stranded a runner in scoring position in
the second and third.

Game notes
Braves C Johnny Estrada left in the fifth after a foul ball
bruised his right hand. X-rays were negative, and his status is day
to day. ... The crowd was the largest for a regular-season game in
Miami. The previous record of 55,315 was set on Opening Day last
year. ... Wearing a Marlins' jersey with No. 13, Marino was wide of
the plate by a foot. He then tried it with a football and threw a
strike to Marlins executive Andre Dawson running a deep pattern
behind the plate. ... Chipper Jones, starting for the Braves on
Opening Day for the ninth year in a row, went 0-for-4.