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Updated: Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:02 AM EDT



  R H E  
Braves 0 5 0 WP: Beckett (1-0)
LP: Smoltz (0-1)  
Marlins 9 13 0
Smoltz hammered by Marlins in return to rotation

MIAMI (Ticker) -- John Smoltz 's return to the rotation was a rocky one.

Making his first start in nearly four years, Smoltz matched the shortest outing of his career in the Atlanta Braves ' 9-0 loss to the Florida Marlins in the season opener for both teams.

A Cy Young Award winner as a starter in 1996 when he won 24 games, Smoltz battled arm problems and moved to the bullpen, becoming one of baseball's dominant closers. He saved 154 games the last 3 1/2 seasons, including a National League-record 55 in 2002.

But making his first start since June 9, 2001 at Yankee Stadium, Smoltz (0-1) lasted just 1 2/3 innings and was pounded for seven runs and six hits. He also recorded just five outs as a starter in a 1994 game against Florida.

"You don't want to start off the season like this," Smoltz said. "You don't want to put your team in a position to (need to use) six or seven innings of relief. I'm not that disappointed, but you don't want your family to make the trip for 1 2/3 innings. Not what I had in mind."

"I'd rather get Smoltz in April than in May," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "You like to make them pitch as much as you can early. But he's a (darn) good pitcher. Don't discount him. He'll be one of the top pitchers in the league."

Juan Encarnacion delivered the big blow off Smoltz, capping a five-run first inning with his second career grand slam. Mike Lowell also had a two-out, RBI single in the first.

"You always have to look for a fastball from Smoltz," Encarnacion said. "I thought it had a chance, but I don't have much power. Maybe the wind was blowing out in that situation."

"I got that ball up and he was ready for it," Smoltz said.

Smoltz last gave up a grand slam to Ryan Thompson of the New York Mets on May 14, 1994.

Smoltz, starting an opener for the first time since 1997, issued a leadoff walk to pitcher Josh Beckett in the second and left four batters later after surrendering a two-run single to Carlos Delgado , which gave the Marlins a commanding 7-0 lead.

The advantage was more than enough for Beckett (1-0), who surrendered just two hits in six innings. The righthander walked three, struck out six and departed after throwing 108 pitches.

"It's exciting to see those five runs go up in the first inning, give Josh some comfort, some breathing room," McKeon said. "That sets the tempo."

(Beckett's) one of the best in the game," Atlanta's Marcus Giles said. "Every time you face him, it's going to be a battle. It's tough to win when you score no runs."

In the first, Beckett walked the first two batters but was able to avert trouble, including retiring Chipper Jones on a fly ball to the warning track in right field for the first out.

"After that first inning, we couldn't get a thing going," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "We missed a great opportunity to get (Beckett) early. Chipper's ball was right at him."

"I had a lot of adrenaline going early, and that takes a lot out of you," Beckett said. "After the first few innings, I settled down and let the game come to me."

Delgado, who signed a multi-year contract as a free agent in the offseason, had a huge debut for his new team. The power-hitting first baseman went 4-for-5 with three RBI.

"It was a good day," Delgado said. "It was fun. When you swing the bat well, it's contagious. We had a lot of guys on base, so that helps."

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