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Article:The Tomahawk Times - Smoltz, Chipper lead Braves to 8-0 win over Marlins

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MIAMI -- John Smoltz and Chipper Jones helped the Atlanta Braves end a dismal roadtrip on a winning note Thursday. Jones banged out four hits and two home runs while Smoltz fanned 10 Florida Marlins in five innings, as the Braves sent the Florida Marlins to an 8-0 loss.

"Great pitching tonight and a whole lot of hitting, so it was a good evening for the Bravos," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "It wasn't a great trip, but the win makes it sweeter going home, that's for sure. Maybe we can put something together here and take off a little bit."

Coming in to the night having dropped six of the eight games on the roadtrip, Atlanta needed a boost to get back on the winning track. Cox called a pre-game meeting that may have provided all the motivation the team needed to snap the skid. The veteran combo of Smoltz and Jones certainly responded.

Jones continues to turn almost every game into his own personal hitting display, punishing a pair of Ricky Nolasco pitches for long balls. With one in the fourth and another in the fifth inning, Jones enjoyed his first multi-homer game of the season.

"I have never seen Chipper start a season the way he's started," said Smoltz of the sizzling beginning of Jones' 2008 campaign. "He's carrying us. He's hot and you know everyone around him is going to get hot. When that happens, we're going to be a very difficult team to pitch to."

The home run bug became contagious in the fifth, as Jones, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann combined to hit back-to-back-to-back blasts. It was the first time the Braves had accomplished that feat since 2003.

Though he finished a triple short of the cycle, Jones' four-hit game boosted his Major League best average to .443 in 15 games. But he is not the only Braves topping the MLB leader-boards.

Smoltz (3-0) battled through some discomfort yet again to give the Braves another stand-out peformance just when it seemed to be needed the most. Over five innings, the veteran righty allowed just three hits and two walks while racking up a season-high 10 strikeouts. His microscopic 0.56 ERA is the best in the bigs.

Lingering tightness in his trapezius coupled with a 6-0 lead was all Cox needed to give his starter a the final four frames off.

"We just don't want to take any chances," said Cox. "That thing knots up all the time. We had a nice little lead when he came out and the bullpen held really well tonight."

Smoltz has taken steps to make wholesale changes to the way he approaches and executes in each start. The knot also cut short his start against the Mets on April 6, when he went five shut-out innings against Johan Santana. While he may have pressed through in a late-season or play-off scenario, Smoltz and the Braves would rather err on the side of caution in the early going.

"There's no argument whatsoever at this point," said Smoltz of a truncated outing. "Chipper and everybody else in the offense, they provided the runs. It's easier to pitch when you've got runs."

The Braves enjoyed a break-out day at the plate, racking up 15 hits against Nolasco (0-1) and three Florida relievers. Nolasco surrendered four of the Atlanta homers and was charged with six earned runs in four and two thirds innings.

Kelly Johnson added a two-run shot in the sixth inning against Lee Gardner to cap the Atlanta scoring and give the Braves an 8-0 lead. Mark Kotsay, Jeff Francoeur and McCann all turned in two-hit nights at the plate.

Braves relievers  Will Ohman, Chris Resop, Manny Acosta and Buddy Carlyle all threw scoreless innings and did not allow a single hit in relief of Smoltz.

On Deck: The Braves return home on Friday to host the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three game weekend series. Jeff Bennett will tangle with  Derek Lowe in the opener. Game time is set for 7:35 PM EST.

Grant McAuley covers baseball for the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. For more, click here.


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