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Smoltz starts over with win

He fans nine, silences Padres in Cards debut

It was a big day for John Smoltz (five scoreless innings) and Albert Pujols (40th home run) in the Cardinals’ victory over the Padres. It was a big day for John Smoltz (five scoreless innings) and Albert Pujols (40th home run) in the Cardinals’ victory over the Padres. (Associated Press)
Associated Press / August 24, 2009

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John Smoltz cleared his mind of all the bad things that happened to him in Boston, fixed his delivery, and had a brilliant debut with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Smoltz struck out a season-high nine - including seven straight, which he’d never done before - and held the Padres to three hits over five scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory yesterday in San Diego.

St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols hit his 40th homer, the fifth time he’s reached that plateau.

Smoltz also had a bunt single and scored the first run for the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

“I felt really good,’’ Smoltz said. “I made a conscious decision coming into this start to forget everything else, totally wipe out everything else, and try to go have a little bit of fun and not be caught up in story line and impressing everybody, and it worked.’’

The 42-year-old Smoltz signed with the Cardinals Wednesday after he cleared waivers following his release from Boston. He had a dreadful performance with the Red Sox, going 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA. It helped that his Cardinals debut was against the Padres, who at .240 have the second-worst batting average in the majors.

The first two batters reached against Smoltz, but after getting Adrian Gonzalez to hit into a double play, Smoltz began his strikeout streak by fanning Chase Headley. Smoltz struck out the side the next two innings. Tony Gwynn Jr. snapped the streak with a single to shallow left-center leading off the fourth.

The benches and bullpens emptied momentarily after Pujols apparently thought Will Venable threw an elbow while being tagged out to end the sixth inning. No punches were thrown and order was quickly restored.

Rangers 4, Rays 0 - Scott Feldman won his fifth consecutive road start, Michael Young and Ivan Rodriguez each drove in two runs, and visiting Texas avoided a three-game sweep by beating Tampa Bay.

Feldman (13-4) is the first Texas pitcher with victories in five straight starts away from home since Rick Helling accomplished the feat in 1998. Feldman, 9-1 this season on the road, allowed four hits in seven scoreless innings. The win moved the Rangers two games ahead of the Rays in their chase of the Red Sox in the wild-card race. Texas began the day two games behind Boston.

Rockies 4, Giants 2 - Ubaldo Jimenez threw eight strong innings, outpitching Tim Lincecum, and Seth Smith hit a two-run homer in the seventh that carried host Colorado past San Francisco.

Held hitless by Lincecum (12-4) for 5 1/3 innings, the Rockies rallied to move three games ahead of San Francisco in the NL wild-card race. Jimenez (12-9) won his sixth straight decision for Colorado, which has taken two of three in a four-games series that concludes tonight.

Orioles 5, White Sox 4 - Brian Roberts had three hits, Nolan Reimold hit a two-run homer, and visiting Baltimore kept Mark Buehrle winless since he pitched a perfect game July 23.

Buehrle (11-7) yielded five runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings. He is 0-4 with a 6.22 ERA in six starts since his perfect game against the Rays July 23.

Braves 7, Marlins 5 - Brian McCann hit a tie-breaking, two-run single in the eighth inning and matched a career high with five RBIs, boosting host Atlanta past Florida into second in the NL East.

Cubs 3, Dodgers 1 - Jake Fox went 4 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs, and Ryan Dempster allowed one run in seven innings plus as Chicago rallied past host Los Angeles to avert a four-game sweep.

Twins 10, Royals 3 - Michael Cuddyer homered twice in an eight-run seventh, helping Minnesota sweep a road series for the first time since taking three games from San Diego June 24-26, 2008.

Blue Jays 8, Angels 3 - Ricky Romero (11-5) won for the first time in four starts, lifting host Toronto past Los Angeles.

Athletics 9, Tigers 4 - Jack Cust hit two homers and drove in four runs and Landon Powell added a three-run homer, powering host Oakland over Detroit.

Indians 6, Mariners 1 - Fausto Carmona went seven innings for his first win in more than three months and host Cleveland beat Felix Hernandez and Seattle.

Diamondbacks 7, Astros 5 - Ryan Roberts matched a career high with four hits, helping visiting Arizona snap a season-high seven-game skid.

Reds 4, Pirates 1 - Homer Bailey went seven innings and Cincinnati ended host Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak.

Nationals 8, Brewers 3 - Ryan Zimmerman, Cristian Guzman, and Adam Dunn homered and host Washington snapped a five-game skid by routing Milwaukee.

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