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Smoltz, Teixeira lead Braves to win over New York

POSTED: April 18, 2008 5:01 a.m.
/The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves Mark Teixeira, right, and Brian McCann celebrate after the Braves defeated the New York Mets 3-1 on Sunday in Atlanta. Teixeira hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning.

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ATLANTA — John Smoltz is back — and so is that pesky knot behind his shoulder.

Smoltz pitched five scoreless innings, Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer and the Atlanta Braves beat Johan Santana and the New York Mets 3-1 on Sunday to complete a two-game sweep of the rain-shortened series.

Santana (0-1) gave up only one run in seven innings, but Teixeira’s eighth-inning drive off Aaron Heilman gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead.

Smoltz (1-0) was making his first start after opening the season on the disabled list with tightness in the back of his right shoulder. He again felt a knot in the trapezoid muscle and left the game after giving up only two hits and two walks.

"It’s all right. I just didn’t want to take a chance," said Smoltz, who struck out six. "This is my first test. I didn’t fail it.

"It kills me to not go back out there for the sixth and possibly the seventh but I’m proud that at least I was able to say it’s getting stiff, and not make it worse. ... I’m a seven- and eight-inning guy and that’s what it’ll be this year, but for the first start, I’ll take this."

Braves manager Bobby Cox said he was confident Smoltz will make his next start.

"It is an important game but it is (Smoltz’s) first game of the year," Cox said. "We’ll see what happens. He’ll make his next start."

Rafael Soriano allowed Ryan Church’s two-out RBI single in the ninth before finishing for his first save. With runners on first and second, Teixeira made a diving stop of a sharp grounder by Brian Schneider to end the game.

"I was playing one step toward the line," Teixeira said. "I just didn’t want a cheap groundball to get down that line. Brian hit it good, but I just wanted to try to smother it and get the out."

Santana, making his first career start at Turner Field, gave up seven hits, struck out three and did not walk a batter.

"We knew it would be a tough game," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "I thought Santana threw very well, too. He kept us in the game."

Yunel Escobar doubled in Mark Kotsay in the third inning for the Braves’ only run off Santana.

"They took advantage of a couple of pitches," Santana said. "That was the difference in the game."

Teixeira’s shot just over the wall in right field drove in Chipper Jones, who walked with two outs.

"I hit it good but I hit it high and didn’t know how far it was going to go," Teixeira said. "It just barely got out of there, but those count, too."

Blaine Boyer, Will Ohman and Peter Moylan each pitched one scoreless inning before Soriano worked the ninth.Notes: Smoltz is 19 strikeouts away from 3,000. ... Carlos Delgado hit a one-out single in the fourth but was doubled off first base when Kotsay caught Church’s flyball in right-center field. ... While with the Twins, Santana was 0-1 against Atlanta in two career starts in Minnesota.



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