ATLANTA -- Two old friends had their fun, then got down to business. This could have been John Smoltz and Greg Maddux in the prime of their brilliant careers, when they were teammates -- not opponents.
Smoltz got the best of Maddux in their first head-to-head matchup since 1992, earning the win when the Atlanta Braves rallied for two runs in the seventh inning to beat the San Diego Padres 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Both pitchers -- with 533 wins and five Cy Youngs between them -- showed plenty of emotion, eager to get the best of the other after spending 11 years as teammates in Atlanta.
Clearly, it wasn't just another game in May.
"What a special night," Smoltz said. "This one sure lived up to its billing, and we came out on top. That's the extra icing on the cake."
Smoltz (5-1) gave up homers to Adrian Gonzalez and light-hitting Geoff Blum before leaving for a pinch hitter in the seventh with the Padres leading 2-1. Maddux was lifted an inning earlier, having allowed only four hits and a single run in 5 1/3.
Maddux's successor, sidearming Cla Meredith (1-1), retired the first two hitters in the seventh. But Kelly Johnson and Willie Harris kept it going with back-to-back singles, bringing up the heart of the order.
Chipper Jones lined the first pitch to the gap in right-center, the ball hopping over the wall for a ground-rule double. Harris, who would have scored easily, was sent back to third to keep the score tied at 2.
But Andruw Jones made it a moot point, lining an opposite-field single to right that brought Harris across the plate again. This time, it counted.
Still watching from the dugout, a beaming Smoltz went up and down the bench, high-fiving his current teammates.
"I don't mind telling you: I'm super-excited to get this win," he said.
Smoltz surrendered seven hits, struck out seven and didn't walk anyone. Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano pitched one scoreless inning apiece, with Soriano earning his fourth save as the fill-in closer for Bob Wickman.
The Braves scored all their runs with two outs, increasing their majors-leading total to 85 runs in those clutch-hitting situations.
"I hope we don't live by this recipe all season," Smoltz said. "But I'm sure glad we've got the guts to keep delivering."
Smoltz and Maddux were teammates in Atlanta for 11 years. This was their first matchup since July 7, 1992, during Maddux's initial stint with the Cubs. Smoltz got the win in a 4-0 shutout at Chicago.
The former teammates took advantage of the matchup to have some fun. As Maddux strolled toward the plate for his first at-bat, Smoltz took off his cap and doffed his bald head toward the box -- a clear reference to Maddux saying a day earlier that he had more hair.
"I was trying to blind him at the plate with my head," Smoltz quipped.
Countered Maddux, "I loved it. I saw the ball better."
Obviously. The 41-year-old Maddux lined the first pitch up the middle for a single, turning the standing ovation he got stepping into the box to good-natured boos. Maddux yukked it up with first-base coach Bobby Meachem, while Smoltz didn't dare look that way.
He did notice that Maddux asked for the ball. It was displayed proudly in his Padres locker after the game.
For most of the night, though, this game was nothing personal. Maddux cursed out loud several times, most visibly after he botched a grounder up the middle to give Andruw Jones a gift single.
Jones stole second and moved to third on a grounder, prompting the Padres to call Meredith out of the bullpen. Maddux received another standing ovation on his way to the dugout, then watched Meredith work out of the jam.
"I kind of tried too hard too early and burned out too soon," Maddux conceded. "I put a lot of pressure on the bullpen. That makes it tough, asking your bullpen to try to cover pretty much four innings."
Still, he appreciated the love shown by Atlanta's fans, who have not forgotten a long tenure that began with three straight Cy Young Awards in the 1990s when Atlanta had the game's most envied rotation.
Smoltz is the only one still wearing the tomahawk. Tom Glavine now pitches for the New York Mets. Maddux left after the 2003 season, bouncing from the Chicago Cubs to the Los Angeles Dodgers before landing in San Diego.
"What a magnificent group," Padres manager Bud Black marveled. "Those three guys epitomize pitching. And what is impressive to me is passing the test of time so dominantly. That's what really sticks out for me."
- Maddux remained at 335 wins, while Smoltz -- less than a week from his 40th birthday -- picked up his 198th career victory.
- The crowd of 36,523 was Atlanta's biggest midweek turnout of the season.
- Maddux has 3,195 strikeouts, moving past Ferguson Jenkins for 11th place on the career list.
- Smoltz holds a 3-1 edge over Maddux.
- Harris had two hits and a walk, raising his average to .417. He also picked up his fourth stolen base.