Braves rout Nats behind strong outing by Smoltz

ATLANTA (AP) -- John Smoltz keeps trying to show his Atlanta
teammates how to win at home, but it's getting late in the season
to see if the Braves will follow his lead.

Smoltz won his sixth straight home start Saturday, giving up
only three hits in eight innings in the Braves' 10-1 victory over

Of the Braves' 11 home wins since July 3, six belong to Smoltz.

The Braves are only 27-34 at Turner Field for the second-worst
home record, only slightly better than the Cubs' 27-36 mark.

Smoltz, 8-1 in July and August with an Aug. 16 loss at
Washington, has served as the stopper as each of his last five wins
have followed losses.

"I've prided myself my whole career on that," Smoltz said.
"Right now we need it more than ever. I'm just trying to go
undefeated the second half. I lost that one game in Washington. But
I want to start another streak. So far so good."

Braves manager Bobby Cox, who has seen each of Smoltz's 189
career wins, says his ace, at 39, is in top form.

Smoltz (12-6) is a combined 26-13 in two seasons back in the
starting rotation after recording 154 saves from 2001-04.

"He's as good as I've ever seen him, and he's been that way all
year," Cox said. "His control is just devastating and his stuff
is just devastating."

Smoltz struck out seven and did not walk a batter in lowering
his ERA to 3.36. He is second in the league with 176 strikeouts.

Smoltz retired the first 13 Washington hitters before giving up
a fifth-inning triple to Austin Kearns. But Kearns was stranded on
third as Smoltz struck out the side.

"He was throwing four pitches for strikes," said Washington's
Ryan Zimmerman. "He was getting ahead and you had to guard against
four pitches. That's hard to do with him throwing 95 miles per

Cox said Smoltz felt so good he asked for permission to steal
second base after his second-inning single. Cox did not give the

Bob Wickman pitched the ninth, finishing the combined

Chipper Jones hit his 20th home run and Marcus Giles had three
hits, stole a base and drove in two runs for Atlanta. Brian McCann
had a two-run double in a four-run first inning.

Less than two weeks after recording his 12th career shutout in a
5-0 win over the Braves on Aug. 15, Pedro Astacio (3-4) couldn't
come close to matching that form.

Instead, for the second straight start, Astacio was chased in
the third inning. After giving up seven runs in a 12-10 loss at
Philadelphia on Sunday, Astacio gave up six runs on eight hits and
five walks in 2 2/3 innings.

"It's crippling," said Washington manager Frank Robinson. "It
just tears your bullpen up.

"Smoltz is tough enough as it is. When you give him that type
of cushion, it's really rough."

In the first inning, Astacio loaded the bases on two walks and
Giles' first hit. McCann doubled, Jeff Francoeur hit an RBI single
and Ryan Langerhans had a sacrifice fly.

"I was pitching behind," Astacio said. "It got some over the
middle of the plate. When you make a mistake, they don't miss it."

The Braves added two runs in the third on a balk by Astacio and
Giles' RBI single. Langerhans' sharp grounder skipped past first
baseman Nick Johnson for a two-base error in the fifth and Giles'
double pushed the lead to 7-0.

Henry Mateo led off the seventh with Washington's second hit of
the game, a double, and scored on Marlon Anderson's sacrifice fly.

Jones hit a two-run homer in the eighth.

Game notes
Trainers came out to check Francoeur and Johnson after the
two collided in the sixth inning. Johnson, running for Francoeur's
pop foul, ran into Francoeur in the basepath. Francoeur was called
out for interference as both fell to the grass. Johnson was
replaced by Anderson the following inning. Johnson is day-to-day
with a cervical strain. Francoeur stayed in the game one inning
before leaving with sore ribs and a sore shoulder. ... Smoltz's
first three-ball count came with one out in the eighth, against
Robert Fick. Smoltz struck him out.