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Smoltz improves to 9-1 after Braves losses

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- John Smoltz excels at whatever the Atlanta
Braves ask him to be: starter, closer -- or lately, a stopper.

Smoltz allowed three hits in seven strong innings for his first
win this month, leading the Braves over the Milwaukee Brewers 8-4
Saturday night.

"I take the mound with the focus that is we cannot lose," he
said after earning his 13th win in his fifth attempt. "I've had
that feeling for a long time. That's the feeling you want to have
as a pitcher. Find a way, any way, battle."

Chipper Jones hit a tying two-run single in the fifth and scored
the go-ahead run two outs later on Jeff Francoeur's single. Jones
and Francoeur each had three hits, and the NL East-leading Braves
tied their season high with 17.

Smoltz (13-6) who leads the Braves in wins, finished August with
a 1-1 mark in five starts. He came into the month with an
eight-game winning streak, but had not won since beating Pittsburgh
on July 31. His last road win had come on July 20 at San Francisco.

"It's been a grind," he said.

Smoltz is 9-1 in 13 starts after Braves losses, with the team
going 11-2 in those games. He struck out eight, walked three and
allowed three hits, including two-run homers to Geoff Jenkins and
Bill Hall.

"John Smoltz is pretty good," Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
"He's been pretty good for a long time."

Andruw Jones and Adam LaRoche each had run-scoring singles in
the sixth off reliever Dana Eveland. Rafael Furcal tacked on
another run with a single in the seventh off Tomo Ohka, pushing the
lead to 8-4.

The Braves spoiled the Brewers' chance to get to .500 for the
first time since Aug. 7, when they were 56-56. They also ruined
Rick Helling's first major league start since Aug. 13, 2003,
against Tampa Bay while with Baltimore.

Helling had made eight relief appearances since his contract was
purchased from Triple-A Nashville on July 27. He replaced
ineffective Victor Santos, who was demoted to the bullpen Aug. 23.

Helling left with a 4-2 lead after walking Furcal to start the
fifth. He allowed three runs and four hits and struck out three in
four-plus innings, his longest outing this season in the majors.

"The walks drive me crazy," Helling said. "There's no excuse
for that."

Santos (4-13) took the loss after he failed to hold the lead as
the Braves scored three times to go ahead 5-4. Marcus Giles
doubled, Jones followed with a two-run single and Francoeur hit a
two-out single.

It was Santos' second relief appearance and first since April
30.

"The bullpen just struggled," Yost said. "They hit the ball
hard and they found the holes."

Jenkins hit a line-drive home run just over the wall in right to
give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead in the second. Smoltz singled and scored
on Giles' two-out double off the wall in center as the Braves made
it 2-1 the third.

Lyle Overbay walked and scored on Hall's 16th home run, a shot
that glanced off the right-field foul pole, as Milwaukee retook the
lead 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth.

"The home runs just shocked me," said Smoltz, who retired 10
of the next 12 batters after Hall's drive. "We needed to win, and
the guys came through. I knew if I could keep it close, that we
would have a chance."

Game notes
RHP Ben Sheets was put on the 15-day disabled list by the
Brewers on Saturday with a torn back muscle and might miss the rest
of the season. ... The game's start was pushed back 30 minutes when
the Brewers honored Bob Uecker for his 50 years in major league
baseball as a player and radio announcer. ... Helling was 9-3 in 21
starts at Nashville before being called up. ... The Brewers had
their seventh sellout of the season.