Domination doesn't really even begin to describe tonight's 7-1 win over the Washington Nationals. John Smoltz took to the mound, ending an impressive five-game winning streak by Washington and keeping the momentum going from the last game of the Phillies' series. Smoltz really hadn't looked right the past couple starts. He showed noticeable pain and it affected his performance. Tonight though, something clicked and the veteran ace just found another gear. His fastball-slider combo was just about as good as I have ever seen it for Smoltz. He painted the corners with a 93-94 mph fastball with ease and made Washington hitters look foolish with a hard-breaking slider. Smoltz actually brought a no-hitter into the eighth before Ronnie Belliard smacked a single to right field to end the inning, and also ending his night at 109 pitches. Peter Moylan, who came in to relieve Smoltz, allowed an RBI-double to close the book on the veteran starter. In 7+ innings, Smoltz allowed one run on one hit and two walks, while striking out ten. After Moylan finished off the eighth, Rafael Soriano came in to pitch the ninth and once again looked un-hittable. What a change it has been since the flamethrower assumed the closer's role. In his last eight appearances, Soriano has allowed only five hits and has struck out ten while walking none in 9.1 innings. I have to give credit where credit is due here. There is one player that helped not only the Braves pitching, but their offensive production as well. Ryan Zimmerman, the normally sure-handed Nationals third baseman committed three errors in the game. Add onto that an 0-4 day at the plate with four strikeouts and it just wasn't a good day at all for Zimmerman.
The Braves bats certainly showed up against a team that has been dominant from the mound lately. Chipper got the scoring started in the third. After walks to Willie Harris and Kelly Johnson started the inning, Chipper unloaded on a pitch, driving it out into the farthest part of the bullpen. Chipper went 3/4 on the day to bring his average up to .333, finishing a triple away from the cycle. The fourth inning was probably the low-point for the Nats and especially former Braves' and current Nationals' Bench Coach Pat Corales, who has always been associated with strong defensive teams. Andruw started off the inning by reaching on one of Zimmerman's throwing errors and after a walk to Yunel Escobar, John Smoltz tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt. They threw to third to get the force out of Jones and then Zimmerman threw away the ball trying to turn the double-play, allowing both runners to advance. The very next batter, a wild pitch scored Escobar from third and Nationals' catcher Brian Schneider threw the ball off of Escobar as he crossed home, allowing Smoltz to score as well. Just a miserable inning for the Nationals and something that just has to kill moral of the team.
San Diego lost tonight so the Braves are only 4.5 out of the wild card (I can't believe they are actually closing in). This team will basically have to run the tables though to have a shot at a playoff berth. Chuck James is going against Matt Chico tomorrow at 7:05 ET. This is nice to get a long start before James takes the hill. Let's hope for another win tomorrow.
Also, one more note. The Diamondbacks signed Bob Wickman to a contract today. Doesn't really affect the Braves but interesting none the less.