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Smoltz deals, Braves win

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Posted: April 29, 2007 12:07 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2007 5:01 a.m.
    DENVER — John Smoltz hates pitching against the Colorado Rockies. Hates pitching at Coors Field.
    It hasn’t kept from beating them on a regular basis.
    ‘‘If you asked me what my record was against them, I’d say I had a losing record,’’ Smoltz said, who is 11-4 with nine saves and a 3.43 ERA in his career against the Rockies.
    ‘‘That’s the way I feel when I face these guys.’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t get Todd Helton out. I can’t get Matt Holliday out.’’
    It doesn’t matter. Smoltz continued his mastery of Colorado and Chipper Jones drove in two runs to help the Atlanta Braves beat the Rockies 6-2 on Saturday night.
    ‘‘I thought Smoltz pitched great,’’ Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. ‘‘He gave up a home run in the first inning and then gave up nothing.’’
    Smoltz (3-1) allowed two runs, nine hits, and struck out eight in seven innings. He appeared fired up when he left the game, pounding his glove and high-fiving teammates.
    ‘‘I had a horrible bullpen session before the game and then I was all over the place mechanically,’’ said Smoltz, who also snapped an 0-for-11 skid at the plate to start the season with a double in the sixth inning.
    ‘‘I got lucky.’’
    Colorado second baseman Jamie Carroll, who suffered through an 0-for-4 night didn’t agree.
    ‘‘The guy threw 94 on the outside corner and he has two different sliders going,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘After we got to him for two runs in the first inning, he started to spot the fastball and made his adjustment. That’s what has made him successful.’’
    The 39-year-old, who recently signed a contract extension for 2008 with options for 2009 and 2010, was aided by an efficient offense that turned three hits — a two-run single by Jones, a solo home run by Jeff Francoeur and a triple by Kelly Johnson — in the first four innings to build a 5-2 lead.
    ‘‘You can hear it in his voice, he was not happy about pitching here,’’ Francoeur said. ‘‘We know it’s up to come up with key hits and plays behind him.’’
    Jones has seven home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 16 games.
    Andruw Jones made a leaping catch to rob Garrett Atkins of a home run in the third inning and preserve the lead.
    ‘‘Nothing to it,’’ Andruw Jones said. ‘‘It’s all about positioning, finding the wall and locating the ball.’’
    Colorado starter Jason Hirsh (2-2) allowed five runs, five hits and four walks over six innings.
    ‘‘His command wasn’t what it had been for Jason in his other fours starts,’’ Colorado manager Clint Hurdle. ‘‘He didn’t establish his fastball and nothing establishes his changeup better than his fastball.’’
    Holliday was 2-for-4 with two doubles.
    Troy Tulowitzki hit his second home run in as many games, a towering shot into the Braves’ bullpen in center field after a leadoff walk to Willy Taveras in the first inning.
    ‘‘That wasn’t the start I was looking for,’’ Smoltz said, adding that he thought the home run was going to be a fly out.
    The Braves took a 3-2 lead in the third inning. Ryan Langerhans reached on the shortstop Tulowitzki’s error and Kelly Johnson and Edgar Renteria walked to load the bases before Chipper Jones singled off Carroll’s glove at second base to drive in two runs. Andruw Jones added a sacrifice fly.
    Jeff Francoeur homered to left, his fifth of the year, leading off the fourth. Langerhans drew a one-out walk and an out later scored when Johnson tripled to center to make it 5-2.
    Smoltz settled down, pitching six scoreless innings after the first. He induced a two-out ground ball by Brad Hawpe with runners on second and third in the third inning and got Holliday to ground out after two-out hits by Atkins and Todd Helton in the fifth.
    Renteria added his fourth homer of the season in the ninth to make it 6-2.
    ‘‘The guys picked me up and I will be very much relaxed the next few days.’’ Smoltz said. ‘‘I’m fortunate that I had five days off before this and will have five days off after this game because there is a carry-over affect from pitching here.’’
Notes: Manager Bobby Cox said LHP Chuck James was fine a day after tweaking his back trying to run out a double play grounder Friday night. ... OF Francoeur started his 187th straight game in right field. ... Colorado 2B Kaz Matsui (lower back spasms) has begun a regime of swing a bat one handed, playing some light catch and jogging.

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