Smotlz salute focus of weekend

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

ATLANTA - John Smoltz beat the Blue Jays only once.

Smoltz worked six innings, riding Lonnie Smith's grand slam in Game 5 of the 1992 World Series at the SkyDome ... thereby cancelling the premature parade scheduled by city hall.

During interleague play, Smoltz made two starts against Toronto and lost both.

Yet, as the Braves honour Smoltz Friday at Turner Field, it should be remembered that Smoltz helped write as much a part of Jays history as, say, Mark Gubicza, Mike Moore, Dave Stewart, Jack Morris, Tom Glavine or Curt Schilling in opposing uniforms.

Smoltz was minding his own business as a struggling 20-year-old at double-A Glens Falls (4-10, 5.86 ERA in 21 starts) in the Detroit Tigers system when they dealt him to the Atlanta Braves for right-hander Doyle Alexander on Aug. 12, 1987.

All Alexander did the rest of the way for the Tigers was make 11 starts, all of which were won by Detroit. He went 9-0, including seven innings in a 4-3 win in the opener of the season-ending series against the Blue Jays, setting the weekend tone for the Meltdown in Motown weekend.

So it's fitting that Smoltz will be honoured with the Jays in town.

Smoltz's No. 29 will be retired to join his rotation mates -- Greg Maddux's No. 31 and Tom Glavine's No. 47 -- on the left-field façade.

The Braves have a galaxy of retired numbers in Hank Aaron (44), Eddie Mathews (41), Phil Niekro (35) and Warren Spahn (21), plus future Hall of Famers Bobby Cox (6), Maddux and Glavine, as well as Dale Murphy (3) too. Former GM John Schulerholz will be there too some day.

Smoltz, the only pitcher in major-league history with 200 or more wins and 150 or more saves, was not on the losing end of the best post-season pitching performance.

That was in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when Morris worked 10 scoreless for the Minnesota Twins to beat the Braves 1-0 in 10 innings.

Smoltz pitched 71/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits, leaving with two men aboard for reliever Mike Stanton, who escaped the jam.

It should make for A) a large crowd Friday and B) a late start, as pre-game ceremonies always take longer than planned.

The Jays were in Atlanta last season and were swept by the Braves (and outscored 10-2). In that series, Atlanta used two of the starters it will use this weekend, Tim Hudson and Brandon Beachy.

And in 2009, Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe and Jeff Bennett swept the Jays, with the Braves outscoring the Jays 15-4.

The Jays have lost six straight in Atlanta going back to Ty Taubenheim beating the Braves June 22, 2006. 

STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY 7:35 p.m. RHP Kyle Drabek RHP Brandon Beachy

SATURDAY 4:05 p.m. RHP Drew Hutchison RHP Tommy Hanson

SUNDAY 1:35 p.m. LHP Ricky Romero RHP Tim Hudson

ELLIOTT'S TAKE

The Braves have won five of their previous six going into the finale of the Miami series. The Jays will be looking into the past ... and not because it's a rematch of the 1992 World Series. In the early 1990s with Duane Ward and Tom Henke, the Jays and manager Cito Gaston reduced games from nine to six innings. If you're behind after six, you're likely done. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca have done the same with relievers Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.

PREDICTION

It could be a wet weekend. I will wager all my Coca-Cola stock that Bobby Cox will not be ejected once ... the Braves will probably win two of three.

BRAVES WHO'S HOT

  • Brandon Beachy has been outstanding, especially at home, going 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA in four starts.
  • Centre fielder Michael Bourn has hit safely in 17 of his last 23 starts and 43 of 55 starts this season going into Thursday's finale in Miami.
  • Rookie Randall Delgado retired the first 12 batters he faced Wednesday.

BRAVES WHO'S COLD

  • Rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, a former Blue Jays farmhand who has made 40 starts, is hitless in his previous 12 at-bats, with one RBI heading into the finale against Miami.
  • Freddie Freeman left Wednesday's game with an injured left index finger (throwing hand). Freeman also has been struggling with his vision for over a month. His dry-eye condition was made worse by dry air and wind.

Videos

Photos