I'll be complaining about the game in a moment, but for now, please indulge me. John Smoltz just got his 3,000th strikeout, and he's pitching some of the best baseball of his career. Unlike Craig Biggio, who hung around too long just to try to collect his 3,000th hit, Smoltz is raking in strikeouts like they were candy -- his K/9 is currently 12.1, higher than he's ever had, including when he was a closer.
Or, for a different illustration, here's what he looks like when you put him next to Tommy Hanson, who's blowing through high-A like Tim Lincecum:
He's a Hall of Famer. Some people may not have realized it till now, but he's in. Mark it down. And he's pitching some of the best baseball of his life. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough against the immortal John Lannan...
Nationals 6, Braves 0
John Lannan is a crappy left-handed pitcher (whom we annihilated just a week ago), so naturally we couldn't get a single run off him. Chipper went 0-4, bringing his average down to .430.
When Smoltz exited, after giving up only 5 hits in 7 innings and striking out 10, it was 1-0. Then Jorge Campillo made a stupid throwing error -- no pitcher should be allowed to toe the rubber until they've practiced throwing out runners at second on a comebacker to the mound -- and between that and the frighteningly bad Chris Resop, the Nats scored five times. (In the fifth inning, Smoltz made an error throwing to second on a pop-up he let drop to try to get a double play. I guess I'd make an exception to let him start, but it's still ridiculous for a guy like him to throw the ball away on an easy play like that.)
Smoltz was only the 5th Braves pitcher to go 7 innings in our first 20 games, and now we're back to .500. Tomorrow, Jeff Bennett will take the mound, and somehow I doubt he'll go deep into the game. Hopefully we'll win anyway. As you can tell, I feel that winning more games than you lose has more than a symbolic significance.
Congratulations again to John Smoltz. He's one of the greatest right-handers ever to pitch and still one of the best pitchers in the major leagues, one of the last players to play for twenty years with the same team, and I'll be proud to watch him go into Cooperstown with an A on his cap.
(Update: As an aside, I hated how all the postgame coverage and ESPN stories referred to John Smoltz as having 3,000 strikeouts. Actually, y'know, he has 3,006. And counting.)