John Smoltz saved the season. He gave the Braves another valiant effort, 93 pitches in seven innings of one-run, seven-hit, five-strikeout baseball. And he adopted Brian McCann as his personal catcher, getting the rookie into the lineup where he belongs, and where he hit a three-run homer in his first postseason at-bat in the second inning. If a second-inning hit can be clutch, that was.
Smoltz gave up a run in the first on three weak hits. Actually, the Astros didn’t really hit the ball hard until the seventh, when they got a two-out double and a rocket that Chipper snared for a groundout to end the inning. Between the second and the sixth he shut the Astros down. After a leadoff hit in the third, he got fourteen of the next fifteen and retired the other on a double play.
All the Braves’ runs came with two out. Andruw singled and Francoeur walked in the second, but Langerhans just missed a double foul, then struck out. McCann took the first two pitches for balls, then unloaded to right field to make it 3-1.
In the third, Furcal and Giles made outs, but Chipper walked and Andruw singled again, and LaRoche doubled in the gap; the outfielder tried to make the diving catch, which let the ball go to the wall and Andruw score.
They missed a chance in the fourth, but Clemens left after the fifth, relieved by Backe — meaning that the Astros are going with a three-man rotation. In the seventh, the Braves got two runs off of Qualls. Furcal reached on an infield single which the pitcher threw away, but was called out trying to make it to third on the error (he was safe). Then Marcus singled, Chipper grounded out but Biggio couldn’t make a clean play, letting Marcus go to second. Andruw had his third hit of the day to score him, and went to second on the throw. LaRoche was walked and Francoeur singled Andruw home, but was thrown out in a rundown.
Reitsma allowed a weak leadoff single in the eighth (seriously, the Astros didn’t hit the ball hard much at all) and then got the next three. Farnsworth pitched the ninth even with the big lead.
Day off, then two in Houston. Oswalt versus Sosa to lead off. The Braves have generally handled Oswalt well in the past, and beat him up in his one game against them this year. The Cards are up 2-0 and have about a 95 percent chance — at least — of winning the Padres series, probably in three.