Atlanta at Florida

W: J. Beckett (1-0) L: J. Smoltz (0-1)
HR: ATL - None   FLA - J. Encarnacion (1)

Marlins KO Smoltz in second, jump all over Braves wire reports

MIAMI -- The season was only in the second inning when John Smoltz called it a day, fans taunting him with tomahawk chops as he trudged to the dugout, his first start in nearly four years a big bust.

Smoltz lasted just five outs, giving up a grand slam to Juan Encarnacion that capped a five-run first inning, and Carlos Delgado had four hits in his Florida Marlins debut to help beat Atlanta 9-0 Tuesday.

Making the transition from All-Star closer back to the rotation, Smoltz threw 65 pitches and allowed seven runs, six of them earned and all scoring with two outs. A Marlins' record crowd of 57,405 jeered when he departed.

"It's the worst feeling in the world," Smoltz said. "Obviously I wouldn't have thought this was possible. It's numbing. You want a mulligan."

By pitching 1 2/3 innings, the former Cy Young Award winner matched his shortest outing as a starter. It happened three other times, most recently on May 3, 1994, also against Florida.

Smoltz said he threw only two bad pitches, one of them a high fastball to Encarnacion. But he'll go into his second start Sunday with an ERA of 32.40.

"If I focused on my ERA right now, I'd be an idiot," Smoltz said. "I'm disappointed with the results, but not the way I threw."

Delgado swung at all three pitches in his first at-bat and missed -- Smoltz's lone strikeout. He had three singles and a double after that, finishing 4-for-5 with three RBI.

Josh Beckett, starting on opening day for the third year in a row, earned the win for the first time. He allowed two hits in six innings, and three relievers completed a five-hitter.

"We'll take nine runs every day," Beckett said. "I don't think any of our starters will complain about that."

Mike Lowell had a pivotal at-bat in the first-inning rally, contributed two RBI singles and made a diving stop at third base to save a run. Luis Castillo scored three times.

In addition to the drubbing, the Braves lost two starters to injuries. Catcher Johnny Estrada left in the fifth inning after a foul ball bruised his right hand, and second baseman Marcus Giles departed in the sixth with a jammed left knee. X-rays for both players were negative, and neither injury was believed to be serious.

The Marlins finished with baseball's worst spring training record at 11-20, but manager Jack McKeon repeatedly said his team would be ready when the bell rang. Two hours before the game, he stood in the dugout laughing as he rang a brass bell.

And his team was ready.

Making his first start since June 9, 2001, Smoltz walked Castillo and allowed a single to Miguel Cabrera with one out in the first, then nearly escaped unscathed. He retired Delgado for the second out, and the count to Lowell reached 2-2.

Lowell fouled off two pitches, took a ball and fouled off two more, then singled home the season's first run. Paul Lo Duca fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches, then singled to load the bases.

"You're making what you think is an out pitch, and they spoil it," Smoltz said. "You've got to keep making it."

Encarnacion then hit a 1-0 delivery for his second career grand slam and a 5-0 lead.

"You can't get better than that, especially on opening day," he said.

The crowd erupted and coaxed Encarnacion out of the dugout for a curtain call. It was an even bigger ovation than when Dan Marino was introduced before the game to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Smoltz walked Beckett starting the second, then ran into more two-out trouble. Cabrera singled and advanced on a passed ball, and Delgado singled home two runs to end Smoltz's afternoon.

"We delivered. That's why we get paid the big bucks," said Delgado, who signed a $52 million, four-year deal with Florida. "If you want to be a good team, you have to beat the good pitchers."

Smoltz was unaccustomed to struggling against the Marlins. He came into the game with a streak of 31 1/3 consecutive innings of scoreless relief against them dating to May 2001.

"Sometimes those ace pitchers are not as sharp as they will be in May," McKeon said. "I'm just glad we got him in April."

The Braves, beginning their bid for a 14th consecutive division title, fell to 16-24 on opening day since moving to Atlanta.


  • Estrada said his bruised hand was swollen, but he hopes to miss only a couple of games.
  • Giles jammed his knee sliding into second base in the first inning. His status is day to day.
  • The crowd was the largest for a regular-season game in Miami. The previous record of 55,315 was set on opening day last year.
  • Wearing a Marlins' jersey with No. 13, Marino was wide of the plate by a foot. He then tried it with a football and threw a strike to Marlins executive Andre Dawson running a deep pattern behind the plate. Said Dawson: "I had to take two Advil."
  • Chipper Jones, starting for the Braves on opening day for the ninth year in a row, went 0-for-4.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Juan Encarnacion turns on a John Smoltz fastball for a long first-inning grand slam.
Juan Encarnacion turns on a John Smoltz fastball for a long first-inning grand slam. (AP)

Players of the Game

C. Delgado
AB 5
R 0
H 4
HR 0

J. Encarnacion
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1

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Game Information
Attendance - 57405
Game Time - 2:59
Temperature - 78
Umpires - Home - Joe Brinkman, First Base - Derryl Cousins, Second Base - Jeff Nelson, Third Base - Bill Miller