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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
NEW YORK - John Smoltz was four years removed from his last win as a starter, so long that he couldn't recall it, June 3, 2001, against Pittsburgh.
So Tuesday night's 4-3 victory over the Mets was special for the man who has returned to the Braves rotation after posting 154 saves.
"It's a big part of the process," Smoltz said. "You need a game like this. It means there's a lot of life left."
Smoltz, who will be 38 on May 15, returned to the rotation as the Braves shuffled their pitching staff this season. He had had little run support in his first four starts, and he went into the seventh inning on a cold, windy night at Shea Stadium when he didn't have his best stuff.
"It was a battle," he said. "I was grinding out there. I didn't have a good splitter or curve. The ball felt like a cue ball. I abandoned a pitch or two. I didn't have a good feel of the ball. Patience paid off. The last three games were a grind, just like this one."
The difference was this time Smoltz had some runs to work with. The Braves pushed across three in the first inning against Pedro Martinez, matching the total they had scored for Smoltz in his first four starts this season.
"It felt nice and kind of weird," Smoltz said. "It was the first time I've had a lead out of the gate. I wanted to make sure I kept it."
He did, taking the Braves into the seventh inning and leaving with a 4-1 lead.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he's a competitor," said catcher Johnny Estrada, who drove in three with two doubles. "He knew what he had to do to get through seven innings."
Smoltz mixed a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer and some changeups for the first time all season.
The Braves barely held on after closer Dan Kolb allowed two runs in the ninth. Jose Reyes' second double of the game and pinch-hitter Mike Piazza's single pulled the Mets within 4-3, and Carlos Beltran's single put runners on first and third and knocked Kolb out. John Foster came in and got Cliff Floyd to pop out for his first career save.
MARLINS 9, ROCKIES 3: Josh Beckett had a two-run double in Florida's five-run seventh and overcame a shaky start for his fourth win.
It was the 10th anniversary of the inaugural game at Coors Field, though it looked nothing like the first, an 11-9 Colorado win in 14 innings.
Beckett made sure of that. He gave up three runs, two earned, in the first two innings and not much else, allowing eight hits in six innings to tie for the league lead with his fourth win.
REDS 11, CUBS 9: Ken Griffey, who entered with three RBIs, had a three-run double and a sacrifice fly for visiting Cincinnati. With the Reds trailing 8-7, former Devil Ray Javier Valentin hit a two-run single off Mike Remlinger with two outs in the seventh to put the Reds ahead to stay.
CARDINALS 5, BREWERS 3: Albert Pujols was 3-for-5 with two two-run doubles, but closer Jason Isringhausen left in the ninth with an apparent abdominal strain for host St. Louis. The Cardinals have won 10 of 11 and are a league-best 13-5, their best start since they were 13-4 in their World Series championship season of 1982.
NATIONALS 3, PHILLIES 1: Brad Wilkerson connected off previously unbeaten Jon Lieber for the first upper-deck home run at RFK Stadium in 34 years, leading Washington.
GIANTS 6, PADRES 5: J.T. Snow matched his career high with four hits and drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning to lead host San Francisco. San Diego's Phil Nevin extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a pinch-hit home run.
D'BACKS 3, DODGERS 2: Former Dodger Shawn Green homered and Luis Terrero hit a two-run shot in the second inning as visiting Arizona won its fifth in a row.
ASTROS AT PIRATES, PPD.: Because of a forecast of eveninglong rain, the game was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader 5:05 p.m. July 19.