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I didn't expect much from John Smoltz when he arrived with an 8.33 ERA after a two-week layoff. But the 42-year old pitcher mowed through the Padres for five shutout innings racking up nine strikeouts.
Sure, the Friars aren't the '27 Yankees. But they are a major league team with some pretty decent hitters, and you don't strike out nine guys in five innings -- including seven in a row -- if you don't have pretty good stuff.
Manager Tony La Russa mentioned Sunday that the Cardinals think Smoltz was tipping his pitches. Is this the reason he was hit so hard in Boston? It just goes to show that while one can learn a lot from numbers, baseball is always going to have a human element that doesn't show up in the stat sheets.
John Smoltz throws a pitch during his Sunday win over the Padres. AP photo.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Smoltz couldn't have been better, allowing three hits and no walks in five innings. He probably could have gone longer, but manager Tony La Russa took the pitcher, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, to play it safe.
Lowlight: Bad defense put Smoltz to the test in his first inning as a Cardinal. With a runner on first after a squib hit, Brendan Ryan tried to barehand the ball turning a double play and muffed it to get no outs. But Smoltz recovered to get out of the inning without allowing a Padre to dent the plate.
A close second lowlight was the Cardinals inability to score in the first inning with the bases loaded and no one out. The game was in danger in the ninth when the Padres loaded the bases. It should have been well out of reach by then.