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John Smoltz

John Smoltz

Officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 26, 2015, it would be hard to pick out his “greatest games”. So here is a very partial list.

Oct. 5, 1991 – Smoltz went the distance to beat the Astros 5-2 as the Braves coined the NL West title on the penultimate day of the season, the first of many big postseason performances.

Oct. 17, 1991 – Against the Pirates, on the road, in Game 7 of the NLCS, Smoltz pitched a six-hit shutout with eight K’s in a 4-0 victory, good for a Game Score — the metric Bill James designed as a simple way to measure the effectiveness of a pitcher’s start — of 82. He threw 123 pitches — 82 for strikes — but more important, this was the game that got the Braves’ dynasty rolling and established Smoltz as the team’s postseason ace.

Oct. 27, 1991 – Ten days later, Smoltz, then 24, battled Minnesota’s Jack Morris — the young gun versus the grizzled veteran — in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Smoltz tossed 7⅓ scoreless innings for the Braves, while his elder pitched a 10-inning shutout in a game that finished 1-0.

Sept. 6, 1998 – Smoltz’s best Game Score was a 93, not in his Game 7 performances against the Pirates in the 1991 NLCS or the 1991 World Series against the Twins. Not Game 5 of the 1996 World Series against the Yankees. But rather this regular-season game against the Mets. Smoltz struck out 13, walked none and pitched a three-hitter that could easily have been a perfect game. The Mets had a bit of a rough lineup that night, with Lenny Harris hitting fifth and Jorge Fabregas hitting sixth, and Larry Vanover had a very wide plate — six of the strikeouts were looking — but this 3-0 win was dominance at its finest.

June 7, 1999 – Down 3-0 early in the game, Smoltz smacked a three-run home run — the fifth and final homer of his career — off Dave Eiland to tie the game. Then, in his next at-bat, he singled. He finished 2-for-3 in a 9-5 win for the Braves.

Sept. 27, 2002 – Smoltz pitched 1⅓ innings to preserve a win for Greg Maddux and notch his 54th save of the season, setting a new National League record. Smoltz would finish with 55 saves, a mark equaled the following season by Eric Gagne of the Dodgers.

May 24, 2007 – Smoltz pitched seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win against the Mets to record the 200th win of his career, making him the only pitcher in MLB history with 200 wins and 150 saves. The losing pitcher that night: Tom Glavine.

April 22, 2008 – Smoltz struck out the Nationals’ Felipe Lopez in the third inning to record his 3,000th career strikeout, becoming the 16th pitcher to reach the milestone. Smoltz would finish with 3,084 strikeouts, ranking him 16th all-time.

 

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