Braves pound Oswalt for fourth straight win
ATLANTA (Ticker) --
finally received the run support he was waiting for.
belted a three-run homer and Smoltz tossed five strong innings before leaving with a back injury as the
' difficulties on the road with a 9-4 triumph.
With the exception of the season opener, Smoltz has been a force in his return to Atlanta's rotation, allowing two runs or fewer in his previous five starts. However, he had just a 2-3 record to show for his efforts as the Braves scored a combined 10 runs in his six outings this season.
In this one, Smoltz was staked to an early 3-0 lead when Estrada deposited the first offering from Houston starter
over the right field wall for his first homer of the season.
"I knew I hit it good," Estrada said of his first home run since September 10. "I was happy to see the outfielder's back turn. It felt good."
Atlanta tacked on three runs in the second for a 6-0 advantage, with all of the runs scoring with two outs.
Smoltz (3-3) retired the side in order in the fifth and the Braves scored three times in the bottom half for a 9-1 cushion. But the righthander did not come out to begin the sixth due to a muscle strain in his back.
After injuring his back coughing earlier this week, Smoltz aggravated it while warming up before the game, forcing him to alter his delivery and pitch more economically.
"I'm looking for quick outs," said Smoltz, who threw 46 pitches and fell behind just four of the 17 batters he faced. "I literally was looking for one out at a time. You really don't do that as a pitcher."
Smoltz allowed just one run and two hits in five innings, striking out two without a walk.
"I did what I could to get through the game," he said. "It wasn't my best stuff. I was trying to fake it as long as I could."
"That's why he's been such a good pitcher for such a long time," said Houston's
, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the game. "He knows how to compete and knows how to pitch even though he doesn't have his best stuff."
Oswalt (4-3), who left his previous start with a sprained right foot, was tagged for nine runs - seven earned - and 10 hits in five frames but struck out five. The National League's lone 20-game winner last season, Oswalt denied being affected by the injury in this one.
"I feel better tonight than I have in a long time," he said. "That's the funny thing. My foot feels great."
delivered a two-run homer in the ninth and Berkman went 0-for-4 in his season debut for the Astros, who fell to 1-12 on the road, including nine straight losses. Berkman had been sidelined with a torn right ACL he suffered during the offseason.
"I'm not going to be 100 percent," said Berkman, who made his first career start at first base. "But I'm enough where I feel like I can be competitive. I just need to be out there. I don't think it will take me too long to get back."
collected three hits and an RBI for the Braves, who saw each of their first seven hitters in the lineup drive in at least one run.
"Everybody's doing their part," Giles said. "It seems like everybody did their own individual thing."