ATLANTA -- The Washington Nationals may not get in the win column with great regularity but they played the role of spoiler against John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. Smoltz notched his 3,000th career strikeout and pitched seven strong innings, but it would not be enough to stop Washington from taking a 6-0 victory over Atlanta.
Anticipation built at Turner Field as Smoltz began to register the four necessary strikeouts to join the 3,000 K's club in the second inning. Both Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns went down looking in the second inning, working the crowd into a frenzy. Smoltz struck out his counterpart, John Lannan, swinging in the third to set the stage for Felipe Lopez and a date with history.
"I was pretty anxious, more anxious than I thought [I'd be]," said Smoltz of the moment. "I downplayed this, I really had in my mind, as much as I possibly could because, short of never making another pitch, I felt like this was something that was going to come. I put a little pressure on trying to get it as quick as possible so I could just continue pitching in the game."
With the crowd on their feet, Smoltz threw a 2-2 splitter that Lopez swung and missed to register the 3,000th stikeout of his 21-year career. The Atlanta faithful gave Smoltz a pair of standing ovations while the team ran a tribute video on the big screen in centerfield to commemorate the occasion.
"You knew it was going to happen, I just wanted it to be at home," said Smoltz of the strong reception from the fans. "I've had alot of history against the Mets but that's my next game. I just didn't want it to happen there because I think the fans deserved to see it here and to be part of something."
The history with the Mets dates all the way back to July 23, 1988 when a 21-year old Smoltz made his Major League debut in Shea Stadium. Smoltz went eight strong and allowed just one run in winning that game. Smoltz struck out All-Star outfielder Darryl Strawberry looking to open the seventh and record the first strikeout of his career.
Smoltz became just the 16th pitcher in Major League history to collect 3,000 strikeouts and is one of just five active pitchers who have accomplished the feat. Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez are the others. Smoltz trails Martinez, who is currently on the disabled list for the New York Mets, by just 25 strikeouts for 15th place on the all-time list.
For the second consecutive start, Smoltz struck out 10 batters. Washington outfielders Lastings Milledge and Willie Harris produced back-to-back doubles that gave the Nationals their only run of the night against the Braves right-hander in seven innings. In four starts and 23 innings this season, Smoltz has racked up 31 punch-outs and allowed just two runs on 15 hits, giving him a microscopic 0.78 ERA.
A five-run Washington ninth obscurred what was a 1-0 contest through the first eight innings. Jorge Campillo battled command issues and committed a costly throwing error on a potential inning ending double play. In just one third of an inning, Campillo was charged with five runs, though only one earned, on two hits, two walks and the error. Chris Resop came on to finish the inning and surrendered a run-scoring ground-out and a two-run double by Ryan Zimmerman that made it 6-0.
On Deck: The Braves will send Jeff Bennett to the mound on Wednesday as the Braves start a brief two-game set with the Florida Marlins. Andrew Miller will make the start for Florida. Game time is set for 7:10 PM EST.