Red Sox - 000 001 002 - 3 8 2The Nats batted around against Smoltz in the first inning, scoring four times on four hits, one walk and one HBP.
Nationals - 401 002 20x - 9 11 1
Smoltz (5-7-5-1-5, 92) settled down -- he retired Washington in order in the second, fourth and fifth innings -- but the damage was done. His fastball was around 91-93, and while he had trouble all night commanding his slider, he showed flashes of dominance. He struck out the side in the fifth.
Daniel Bard and Takashi Saito each allowed two runs out of the pen. David Ortiz had a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Rocco Baldelli hit a first pitch, two-run homer in the ninth.
John Smoltz (2009 debut) / Jordan Zimmermann (5.03, 87 ERA+)
Smoltz, 42, begins "a new chapter" tonight. He last pitched in a major league game on June 2, 2008. Eight days after that, he had right shoulder surgery. This will be his first start since April 27, 2008.
Back in mid-January, when Smoltz signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox, Theo Epstein said:
When I close my eyes and envision it, I see [John Smoltz] starting important games for us late in the season and hopefully into October.Expectations are high, but how Smoltz will do against major league hitters remains a question mark. He had a 2.63 ERA in six minor league starts, but half of those starts were at A and AA.
Still, as long as his shoulder is healthy, a fair amount of hype is warranted. Look at his ERA+ over the years -- he hasn't really had even an average season since 1994 -- especially the three full seasons after he left the bullpen and became a starter again (at age 38!): 138, 127, 137.
[C]oming back from surgery, as I've said many times, this is not a half-year job. This is not something I wanted to do just for a half a year. I plan on pitching past this year. ... I enjoy what I'm doing. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get back to this point, and if I were doing it to prove one human being or 10 human beings wrong, I'd be foolish. I'm doing it because I love it. When I came back from the surgery, I knew I could pitch again.J.D. Drew played with Smoltz in 2004:
He's probably the most competitive player that I've ever played with. Ever. High school, college, anywhere. Just everything he does, he competes at it and he loves it. I think that's exactly what [Red Sox fans] will see.Chipper Jones:
It's like the Red Sox have made a big trade or signed a blockbuster free agent in the middle of the season.Ian Browne notes that Smoltz is the only pitcher in history to have at least 200 wins and 150 saves:
Smoltz's entire body of work is fascinating, because it hasn't been replicated to such an extended degree in two different roles. Dennis Eckersley comes the closest, but he wasn't Hall of Fame caliber (149-130, 3.71 ERA) as a starter. The Eck was a first-ballot Hall of Famer because of his dominance (390 saves) as a closer.Trivia: The first major league batter to get a hit off Smoltz? Dave Magadan, back on July 23, 1988. Neither man remembers much about the at-bat.
As a starter, Smoltz is 206-141 with a 3.33 ERA and 2,731 strikeouts. During his four years in the bullpen (2001-04), Smoltz was about as overpowering (2.41 ERA, .215 opponents batting average) as any closer.
Finally -- months ago, while poking around for Smoltz stuff, I discovered that he isn't too keen on full equality for all people. Back in July 2004, he expressed his disgust for gay marriage:
What's next? Marrying an animal? ... If somebody believes two men should be able to get married, well, I think that's wrong. That's against everything that man is built on.Smoltz later claimed that "Nowhere in my conversation was I critical of gays". I guess comparing gay marriage to bestiality was supposed to be a compliment. To my knowledge, he has not shed his ignorance (or his support of the FARM Act) in the subsequent five years.
With Smoltz joining the pitching staff, Dusty Brown is headed back to Pawtucket after four days in the bigs:
It was everything I expected it to be. It was great and it couldn't have come at a better time. ... It was awesome and everyone was great to me. You get a taste of it now. When I go back I know what I'm playing for and where I want to be.Jason Varitek (who has caught 53 of the Sox's 71 games) says he has had a sore neck since June 12.
I don't know how I did it. I don't know if it was from whiplash from a foul ball or what. ... We've been treating it and we're staying on top of it and hope it goes away.The Globe notes:
Sixty percent of Varitek's hits (26 for 43) have been for extra bases, the second-highest ratio in the majors behind Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, whose at 64 percent. Nine of Varitek's last 12 hits (six doubles, three homers) have gone for extra bases.Since June 6, Ortiz is batting .357/.480/.833.