ATLANTA (AP) -- About an hour before the game, Travis Smith found
out he'd be starting.
The journeyman didn't want to squander the chance.
Filling in for the ailing Mike Hampton, Smith pitched five solid
innings and earned his first major league win in more than two
years, leading the Atlanta Braves past the Philadelphia Phillies
3-1 on Monday.
"It seems like a long time," Smith said. "I'm fortunate they
gave me a shot today."
Andruw Jones homered for the fourth time in six games and had
two RBI. He also prevented a potential run by throwing out a
runner at the plate.
Smith (1-3), who has spent most of the season at Triple-A, got
the start when Hampton couldn't go because of a stiff neck. The
31-year-old replacement allowed five hits and a run before giving
way to the bullpen.
It was enough for Smith's first win since July 25, 2002, when he
pitched for St. Louis.
"For him to pitch under these circumstances, really not knowing
until the last minute, he gave us a huge boost," said Braves
closer John Smoltz, who got the final five outs for his 36th save.
Smith has made four starts for the Braves this season, losing
twice to the Phillies. On his third try, he felt rusty, having gone
more than a week since his last appearance.
"My fastball was a little erratic," Smith said. "I tried to
throw strikes and make them put the ball in play."
The strategy worked. He didn't strike out anyone, but it didn't
matter. Four relievers finished up for the Braves, who won for the
12th time in 14 games.
The Phillies, expected to threaten Atlanta's streak of 12
straight division titles, instead dropped 13½ games behind in the
NL East. They have only 25 games remaining and virtually no chance
of catching the Braves.
"It's frustrating, losing a game like that," David Bell said.
"We had some chances. They made good pitches on us."
Jones got hold of a bad pitch from Eric Milton (13-4), hitting a
solo homer in the second to put Atlanta ahead. The Braves added two
more runs in the third, despite getting just one ball out of the
Milton walked the first two hitters, then Eli Marrero singled to
right to load the bases. Julio Franco dribbled a grounder that
barely cleared the dirt in front of the plate, and Milton bobbled
the barehanded pickup as J.D. Drew streaked across home. Jones
picked up his second RBI with another infield hit, a grounder down
the third-base line that left Bell with no choice but to make a
futile heave toward the plate.
"They hit some balls that hit the right spots," Milton said.
"When you're playing .500 ball like us, things like that happen to
Smith retired the first nine hitters before the Phillies broke
through in the fourth. Jimmy Rollins led off with a double and
moved to third on Placido Polanco's single. Smith had a chance to
escape the inning when Bobby Abreu lined into a double play, but
Jim Thome singled to left to pull the Phillies within 3-1.
That was as close as they got. Smith got a big hand from his
defense in the fifth when Jones threw out Jason Michaels attempting
to score from second on a single up the middle.
"They took a gamble, and I came out on top," Jones said. "The
guy hit the ball pretty hard, I got a good jump on it and came out
with a perfect throw."
Michaels managed to avoid the initial tag by catcher Eddie
Perez, but couldn't get a hand on the plate. Perez got the runner
as he attempted to scramble back toward home.
"That throw!" Rollins said of Jones. "He's crazy. He's too
Hampton, 9-1 in his last 11 starts, has been bothered for
several days by a stiff neck. He'll continue to receive treatment
and rejoin the rotation when the pain subsides.
Smith made sure that Hampton wasn't missed.
A stiff breeze blew throughout the game, foreshadowing
Tropical Storm Frances. The storm came ashore in the Florida
Panhandle and was expected to threaten Tuesday night's game as it
moves into Georgia with torrential rain. ... Drew managed to extend
his hitting streak to 15 games even though he walked three times.
He hit a ground-rule double in the first, then walked in his next
three plate appearances, giving him seven over the last two games.
... Braves C Johnny Estrada didn't get to the ballpark until the
third inning. His wife, Jennifer, delivered the couple's third
child at 10:45 a.m. Johnny Estrada IV weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
... Philadelphia's Ryan Howard had his first major league hit in
the fifth, a pinch-hit single. His first RBI was denied when
Michaels was thrown out at the plate.