<
>

Smoltz wins first in four starts as Braves hook Marlins

ATLANTA (AP) -- Anibal Sanchez will have a better idea Sunday if
his sore right hand will need extra time to recover.

"It feels good now," Sanchez said. "I don't know about
tomorrow."

Pitching his second complete game in four starts offered little
consolation to Sanchez after John Smoltz and Marcus Giles combined
to help the Atlanta Braves beat the Florida Marlins 2-1 on Saturday
night.

Sanchez (8-3) sported a bruise and substantial swelling in his
pitching hand after a hard grounder bounced off the soft tissue
between the thumb and index finger in the fourth inning.

The rookie right-hander, who pitched the majors' only no-hitter
this season on Sept. 6 against Arizona, allowed eight hits, two
runs, one walk and struck out four. He lost for the first time
three starts.

Smoltz (13-9) won for the first time in four starts, and Giles
had an RBI double in the seventh for Atlanta, which had lost four
of five.

"I had a lot of inner desire and I wasn't going to lose," said
Smoltz, who won for the first time in four starts. "I just wanted
to focus on making better pitches and I think that's what I did."

The Marlins have lost three of four to fall 3½ games behind NL
wild card-leading San Diego, which beat Los Angeles 11-2 Saturday
night. Florida had beaten Atlanta in seven of the last 10 meetings.

Bob Wickman pitched the ninth for his 15th save in 16 chances
with the Braves.

Smoltz allowed nine hits, one run, walked three and struck out
eight in eight innings. The 39-year-old right-hander escaped
trouble in the eighth when Wes Helms grounded into a 5-4-3 double
play.

Asked about a strained groin, Smoltz dismissed the soreness as
having no lasting effect.

"I'm going to have issues from time to time with that and I
know how to deal with it," Smoltz said. "With the game being as
close as it was, I was determined to keep it right there, whatever
it took."

Giles doubled into the gap in left-center to score Ryan
Langerhans from second and give the Braves their first lead at 2-1.

"We just couldn't get that one big hit, and they got the one
with Giles," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "He's swinging the
bat a lot better in the second half. It was just a matter of
time."

A fielding error by Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez allowed
Giles to score from third and make it 1-1 in the sixth.

Sanchez had a scare in the fourth inning when Andruw Jones' shot
through the box hit his hand and ricocheted to Ramirez at short.
Manager Joe Girardi and the trainer came out to look at Sanchez,
who insisted he was fine.

"When I tried to throw again, I saw that it was OK," Sanchez
said. "I missed a couple of pitches, but one pitch could change
the game. I tried to keep the score close."

The Marlins took a 1-0 lead when Ramirez scored from third a
fielder's choice grounder. About 45 minutes after the game, the
official scoring was changed so that shortstop Edgar Renteria was
charged with an error for bobbling the ball as he pulled it from
his glove.

With two runners in scoring position, Smoltz escaped a jam in
the second with a barehanded pickup of Ramirez's soft grounder and
making a sidearmed throw to first.

"He's the only guy in the world that makes that," Cox said.
"I've never seen another pitcher make that. It was like a
postseason game for him. But he's always fired up for any start."

Game notes
Girardi has no timetable on RF Jeremy Hermida, whose right
ankle injury has kept him out of the lineup since Aug. 30 and
hasn't allowed him to pinch-hit since Sept. 2. ... RHP Danys Baez
doesn't know if he can pitch again this season after undergoing an
emergency appendectomy last month. Baez is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in
11 games with the Braves.