ATLANTA -- The storied career of John Smoltz added yet another milestone on Tuesday, as the veteran right-hander struck out Washington Nationals second baseman Felipe Lopez in the third inning to register the 3,000th strikeout of his Major League career.
Having just retired John Lannan on strikes for number 2,999, Smoltz got Lopez swining on a 2-2 pitch to make history and possibly punch a ticket for Cooperstown. For the second consecutive start, Smoltz struck out 10 men, getting Lannan again to finish his evening with a flourish in the seventh.
Smoltz, who turns 41 on May 15, becomes just the 16th pitcher to join the elite club. He joins Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson as the fifth active pitcher to reach that plateau. With both Schilling and Martinez on the disabled list for lengthy periods of time this season, Smoltz has a chance to pass both and move further up the list with a big showing this season. Martinez is next on the list with 3,031, while Schilling sits at 3,116. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is in 13th place on the list with 3,117.
His Major League career was been spent entirely with Atlanta and began on July 23, 1988 against the New York Mets. Darryl Strawberry was called out on strikes to begin the seventh inning and become the first career strikeout for the 21-year old rookie. After spending the first 12 seasons of his career in the starting rotation, Smoltz sat out all of 2000 after undergoing ligament replacement surgery. He briefly resumed his starting duties before being converted to a reliever and serving as the Braves closer from 2001-2004.
In 2005, Smoltz pronounced himself ready to rejoin the starting rotation. The Braves made the move and have enjoyed three quality seasons from their ace right-hander. Smoltz topped the 200 strikeout mark and tied for the National League lead with 16 wins in 2006.
Grant McAuley covers baseball for the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. For more, click here.