PHILADELPHIA - A month ago today, sitting in the visiting clubhouse at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, Atlanta starter John Smoltz was adamant in saying he didn't have the resume, the first-half credentials to make a return trip to the All-Star Game.
In fact, in looking around the Braves' locker room that day, it was difficult to deduce who exactly would be Atlanta's lone All-Star representative, a seemingly token choice for a club that lacked healthy stars.
But that was June 4, before amazing month-long tears that, on Sunday, landed both Smoltz and center fielder Andruw Jones on the National League roster.
It's Smoltz's seventh All-Star Game selection, but first as a starter since 1996. It will be Jones' fourth All-Star Game, but his first Home Run Derby appearance.
Smoltz, who started the year 0-3 and didn't pick up his first win until April 26, went 5-1 in June. Overall, the 38-year-old is 9-5 with a 2.68 ERA.
"It was totally unexpected, the furthest thing from my mind," said Smoltz, who said he's "doubly excited" since the game is in his birthplace, Detroit. "I think patience was rewarded."
Smoltz has won five consecutive starts, with three complete games, dating back to June 11.
That was the same day that Jones began his home run assault, hitting two against Oakland to back Smoltz's complete-game effort. He hit 12 homers in the next 15 games.
Jones' 13 June home runs broke Eddie Mathews' 1955 franchise record of 12 homers in a month.
The surge vaulted Jones, who leads the majors with 26 homers, into the July 11 Home Run Derby, in which he will represent Curacao/the Netherlands in the new World Cup format.
This was the same player that was struggling to keep his head above .250 in early June. Jones has endured 0-for-28 and 7-for-54 slumps this year.
Overall, through Saturday, Jones was batting .280 with 59 RBI.
VOTING DILEMMA: If the All-Star Game truly means something, in terms of deciding which league will have the World Series home field advantage, then let the leagues' players and coaches decide who the starters will be, Jones said.
If the starter-selection process went to the players and coaches - and not the fans, as it does now - Jones would be the NL's starting center fielder, flanked by Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu in right and Florida's Miguel Cabrera in left.
"If they're making a big deal out of that, for the (World Series) home field advantage, the coaches and players should make the decision who's going to start the first five innings."
Reach Travis Haney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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