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Braves' walk-off win picks up Smoltz after blown save

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ATLANTA -- In the eighth inning, the fans out in right field began to congregate around the railing overlooking the Atlanta Braves' bullpen.

No. 29 was up and throwing.

Everyone wanted to see the latest incarnation of John Smoltz's remarkable career.

Unveiling a new three-quarters motion to relieve the pain in his aching shoulder, Smoltz came on in the ninth with a chance for his first save since 2004. He didn't get it, giving up a two-out, two-run single to Jeremy Hermida, but the Braves rallied past the Florida Marlins for a 7-5 victory on Yunel Escobar's two-run homer in the 10th inning Monday night.

"The beauty of this role," Smoltz said, "is I get to go right back out and do it again."

The starter-turned-closer-turned-starter has returned to the bullpen, most likely the last switch of a back-and-forth career that has made Smoltz the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 victories and 150 saves.

At 41, he hopes that pitching one inning at a time will extend his career. He's clearly got some work to do.

"I needed a little more touch," Smoltz said. "I knew I was going to be amped up. I threw the ball awfully hard but not exactly in some of the spots. ... I needed the touch to be a little bit better."

The right-hander was activated before the game after two stints on the disabled list this season -- sandwiched around five starts -- and a rehab stint in the minors.

When Escobar came through with a two-out hit in the eighth that put Atlanta ahead 4-3, the crowd began buzzing with excitement. The bullpen gate swung open and Smoltz emerged, walking slowly to the mound as he did so many times from 2001-04, when he piled up 154 saves as one of baseball's most dominating closers.

"It was the first time all year I had goose bumps in the outfield," teammate Jeff Francoeur said.

But Smoltz is still a work in progress. While able to throw in the mid-90s, the new motion robbed him of one of his most effective weapons, the split-finger fastball. He had good movement on some of his pitches, but others just floated over the plate. And he's still struggling to hit the right spots.

"If you ask me what I'm concerned about, it would be that I'm trying to overpower the ball and don't trust the movement," Smoltz said.

The ninth started well for Smoltz -- Cody Ross popped up to third on the first pitch. But Matt Treanor lined a double to the gap in the right-center, the ball skidding off the glove of a diving Gregor Blanco, and pinch-hitter Wes Helms lined a sharp single to left to put runners at first and third.

It looked as though Smoltz might get out of it when Hanley Ramirez flied to medium right. Ross didn't dare test Francoeur's powerful arm, but Helms took second on a high throw toward the plate. Hermida followed with a liner to left, the ball getting through Greg Norton to prevent any chance of a play at the plate on the go-ahead run.

"I can't describe the feeling," Smoltz said of blowing the save. "It's one of the worst feelings in all of baseball."

Said Hermida: "He was coming off the DL and trying to figure out his pitches. We were very fortunate to get him tonight. He's one of the best in the game."

At least Smoltz didn't get saddled with a loss. Kevin Gregg walked Francoeur and Brian McCann, pinch-hitter Josh Anderson hustled down the line to beat out a potential game-ending double play, and Francoeur raced home with the tying run when Gregg skidded one in the dirt for a wild pitch with two outs.

In the 10th, Logan Kensing (3-1) walked Kelly Johnson, then threw a wild pitch that sent him to second. Escobar followed with his fifth home run of the season, a drive that bounced off the top of the wall in right center and into the seats.

The Braves, who have a 2-16 record in one-run games, didn't improve on that mark. But they'll take it after getting swept in Cincinnati last weekend.

"I thought it was just a fly ball," Escobar said through a translator. "I was just trying to do my job: fly ball to move the runner to third base, and let Chipper Jones try to drive him in."

Will Ohman (2-0) earned the victory with a scoreless top half of the 10th.

Francoeur and Mark Teixeira homered for the Braves, and Escobar came through at the end: His run-scoring single in the eighth gave Smoltz a shot at the save, and the first game-ending home run of the shortstop's career improved Atlanta's home record to 23-7. They are only 7-21 on the road.

The Braves jumped to a 2-0 lead, but the Marlins tied it in fourth. Hermida led off with a triple to center and came home on Jorge Cantu's sacrifice fly. After Mike Jacobs struck out, Dan Uggla doubled to left and scored on Luis Gonzalez's two-out single to left.

After Teixeira's homer made it 3-2, Florida knocked out Braves starter Jo-Jo Reyes in the seventh. Uggla started it with another double, this one slamming off the base of the wall in left-center, and Gonzalez followed with a single to right to put runners at first and third.

Manny Acosta replaced Reyes and got a force-out grounder from Cody Ross, but Uggla trotted home with the tying run with the middle of the infield playing back.

Reyes and Florida starter Scott Olsen posted virtually identical lines: six innings, five hits, three runs and four strikeouts. The only difference: Olsen walked two, Reyes one.

Notes

  • Braves RHP Tim Hudson said his strained left hamstring shouldn't keep him out of next start. Hudson has battled hamstring problems in the past, and said this didn't feel as bad as some of his other strains. Manager Bobby Cox said he will have an emergency starter ready in case Hudson can't start Friday against Philadelphia.
  • Olsen went 3-0 in his first four starts, but he's 1-2 with five no-decisions since then.
  • Another Atlanta pitcher, RH Blaine Boyer, underwent an MRI after tweaking his right knee Sunday. It showed no damage.
 
Copyright 2015 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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Atlanta's Yunel Escobar (right) notches a career first: a game-ending home run.  (AP)
Atlanta's Yunel Escobar (right) notches a career first: a game-ending home run. (AP)

Players of the Game
Atlanta

Y. Escobar
AB 5
R 2
H 3
HR 1
RBI 3
Florida

J. Hermida
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0
RBI 2
 

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Florida Marlins
Hanley Ramirez, SS5000024 .292
Jeremy Hermida, RF4122110 .267
    Kevin Gregg, P0000000 .000
    Logan Kensing, P0000000 .000
Jorge Cantu, 3B4001001 .266
Mike Jacobs, 1B4000110 .252
Dan Uggla, 2B5220012 .297
Luis Gonzalez, LF5021012 .302
Cody Ross, CF-RF3001101 .210
Matt Treanor, C4010002 .274
    Alfredo Amezaga, PR-CF0100000 .252
Scott Olsen, P1000010 .045
   a- Jacque Jones, PH0000100 .149
    Renyel Pinto, P0000000 .000
    Matt Lindstrom, P0000000 .000
    Joe Nelson, P0000000 .000
   b- Wes Helms, PH1110000 .242
    Mike Rabelo, C0000000 .214
Totals3658547  
a-walked for Olsen in the 7th
b-singled for Nelson in the 9th
Batting
2B - Dan Uggla 2 (21, Reyes, Reyes), Matt Treanor (5, Smoltz)
3B - Jeremy Hermida (2, Reyes)
SF - Jorge Cantu (1)
SH - Scott Olsen (4)
RBI - Jeremy Hermida 2 (28), Jorge Cantu (28), Luis Gonzalez (22), Cody Ross (21)
2-OUT RBI - Jeremy Hermida 2 (11), Luis Gonzalez (10)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
E - Scott Olsen (2, Throwing)
Florida Marlins
Scott Olsen 6433242 3.72
Renyel Pinto 1200120 1.53
Matt Lindstrom 0.2211210 3.05
Joe Nelson 0.1000000 2.08
Kevin Gregg (BS,3) 1011200 2.54
Logan Kensing (L,3-1)0122101 4.00
IBB - Johnson by Matt Lindstrom
HBP - McCann (by Scott Olsen)
WP - Kevin Gregg (4), Logan Kensing (4)
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Olsen 92-58, Renyel Pinto 23-13, Matt Lindstrom 19-9, Joe Nelson 3-2, Kevin Gregg 23-10, Logan Kensing 10-3
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Olsen 10-5, Matt Lindstrom 1-0, Kevin Gregg 3-0
Batters Faced - Scott Olsen 26, Renyel Pinto 6, Matt Lindstrom 6, Joe Nelson 1, Kevin Gregg 5, Logan Kensing 2
Atlanta Braves
Yunel Escobar, SS5233100 .301
Omar Infante, 2B-LF4000112 .250
Chipper Jones, 3B4020103 .407
Mark Teixeira, 1B4122101 .276
Jeff Francoeur, RF4211114 .256
Brian McCann, C3000100 .313
    Jair Jurrjens, PR0000000 .130
    Corky Miller, C0000000 .077
Greg Norton, LF4000013 .246
    John Smoltz, P0000000 .000
   a- Josh Anderson, PH1000001 .200
    Will Ohman, P0000000 .000
Gregor Blanco, CF5110021 .273
Jo-Jo Reyes, P2000011 .000
    Manny Acosta, P0000000 .000
   b- Ruben Gotay, PH1000010 .229
    Rafael Soriano, P0000000 .000
   c- Kelly Johnson, PH-2B0100200 .299
Totals3779687  
a-hit into fielder's choice for Smoltz in the 9th
b-struck out for Acosta in the 7th
c-was walked intentionally for Soriano in the 8th
Batting
2B - Gregor Blanco (5, Lindstrom)
HR - Yunel Escobar (5, Kensing), Mark Teixeira (9, Olsen), Jeff Francoeur (7, Olsen)
RBI - Yunel Escobar 3 (25), Mark Teixeira 2 (42), Jeff Francoeur (34)
2-OUT RBI - Yunel Escobar (13), Mark Teixeira (19)
SB - Josh Anderson (2, 2nd base off Gregg/Rabelo)
Team LOB - 12
Fielding
E - Omar Infante (2, Misplayed grounder)
Atlanta Braves
Jo-Jo Reyes 6533140 4.78
Manny Acosta (BS,1) 1000110 2.73
Rafael Soriano 1000210 2.57
John Smoltz (BS,1) 1322000 2.57
Will Ohman (W,2-0) 1000010 2.70
IBB - Jacobs by Rafael Soriano
Pitches-Strikes - Jo-Jo Reyes 74-50, Manny Acosta 13-11, Rafael Soriano 18-8, John Smoltz 12-9, Will Ohman 9-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jo-Jo Reyes 8-6, Manny Acosta 1-1, Will Ohman 1-1
Batters Faced - Jo-Jo Reyes 24, Manny Acosta 4, Rafael Soriano 5, John Smoltz 6, Will Ohman 3
Game Information
Attendance - 20896
Game Time - 3:01
Temperature - 86
Umpires - Home - Greg Gibson, First Base - Brian Runge, Second Base - Charlie Reliford, Third Base - Adrian Johnson