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Braves notebook: Bennett's best save comes after game

POSTED: May 29, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA — Jeff Bennett stranded baserunners on second and third in the sixth inning to protect a one-run lead Sunday and help the Atlanta Braves beat the Oakland Athletics 5-2.

That was nothing. Bennett’s most important save came after the game.

Bennett, a right-hander, had a small cut on his right elbow after sliding down some steps while holding his 1-year-old daughter, Alivia Grace.

Bennett protected his daughter, who was not hurt.

A smiling Bennett said he hurt his pride more than his body.

"I actually hit my head a little bit and definitely got my arm," he said.

"I would have been embarrassed, but I was holding her."

That was the only tumble suffered by a Braves reliever Sunday. Atlanta’s bullpen extended to 16 its streak of scoreless innings.

Bennett, who took over from starter Jo-Jo Reyes with no outs in the sixth, combined with Blaine Boyer, Will Ohman and Manny Acosta to pitch four shutout innings.

Bennett gave up two hits in two scoreless innings.

Bennett took over in the sixth after Reyes gave up a single to Emil Brown and Jack Hannahan’s run-scoring double.

Bennett gave up a double to Gregorio Petit, but Hannahan had to hold while waiting to see if the ball would be caught in centerfield by Mark Kotsay.

Hannahan only advanced to third, where he remained as Bennett struck out pinch-hitter Daric Barton and ended the inning on Mike Sweeney’s groundout.

"I feel pretty good," Bennett said. "I feel like I’m letting the ball go better.

"Our whole bullpen is doing a great job. Today shows everybody in the bullpen will step in and do their job. If we continue to do that all year we’re going to be in pretty good shape."

Bennett has a 3.34 ERA while making three starts and 16 relief appearances.

"His stuff is really good right now," said manager Bobby Cox. "He’s going to be an important part of this bullpen."

Smoltz to throw Tuesday

John Smoltz, who has been on the disabled list since April 29 with right biceps tendinitis, threw about 40 pitches Saturday and said Sunday he plans to throw again Tuesday.

Smoltz said he hopes to pick up his pace as he moves closer to a minor league rehabilitation stint as early as this month.

By pushing the pace, Smoltz said his body will tell him what comes next.

"It could very easily fast-track, or it could take the mercy of time," he said.

"From Tuesday I hope to play catch every single day with bullpens in the midst of that. Obviously if we can’t do that it delays the timetable. But I still believe it’s either May sometime or ... then I don’t know what it is."

Smoltz, 3-2 with a 2.00 ERA in five starts, plans to return as the closer.

"If physically I can make the adjustments, I will," he said. "If I physically can’t make the adjustments then there’s no medicine, physical treatments that will help."

Manny Acosta has been the fill-in closer with Rafael Soriano also on the disabled list with elbow soreness.

Worth noting

Chipper Jones snapped an 0-for-6 streak with a single in the eighth, leaving his batting average at .410. ... Omar Infante’s two-run triple as a pinch-hitter in the eighth gave him his first RBIs of the season. ... The Braves have scheduled Tom Glavine and Jorge Campillo as the starting pitchers in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the New York Mets. Campillo is scheduled for his first start of the season and first in the major leagues since 2005 with Seattle, when he had Tommy John surgery after his only career start.



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