ATLANTA - If the Braves fail to make the playoffs this season, it won't be the fault of slugger Mark Teixeira or pitching ace John Smoltz.
Teixeira belted two two-run homers and Smoltz struck out 12 to gain the Braves franchise record while holding the Diamondbacks to five hits Sunday in Atlanta's 6-2 win over Arizona.
The performance by the veteran right-hander, who surpassed Phil Niekro's franchise record of 2,912 strikeouts with flying colors, was a much-needed quality start that helped the Braves avoid a sweep by the Diamondbacks. Smoltz (11-6) totaled 12 strikeouts in eight innings, before giving way to reliever Bob Wickman, who allowed no runs despite loading the bases.
It was the second time this season that Smoltz recorded double-digit strikeouts, and the 42nd time in his probable Hall of Fame career. It's the most strikeouts he's recorded in a single game since 2005 against the New York Mets.
"It was very much a must-win situation for us, and I approached it like that," said Smoltz, 40, who is 16th on the list of baseball's all-time strikeout leaders. "I'm trying to get to where I need to be down the stretch. I fought through the first three innings."
Smoltz has 2,920 strikeouts to 2,912 for "Knucksie."
"I didn't know I had done that," said Smoltz of breaking the franchise record. "Niekro is an Atlanta icon. It's an honor."
The Braves (65-59) remain 5 games behind the Mets - who beat the Nationals 8-2 - in the National League East and start a 10-game road trip today in Cincinnati.
Teixeira helped Atlanta overcome an early deficit with a towering shot to the center field bleachers in the first and a line drive into the right field stands in the third inning. Kelly Johnson's first of two doubles preceded Teixeira's first home run and the second baseman was on base again when Teixeira hit his second homer. Smoltz then settled into an effective groove, pitching five consecutive scoreless innings.
Reach David Lundy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
King of K's
With a season-high 12 strikeouts Sunday against Arizona, John Smoltz passed Phil Niekro to become the Braves' franchise leader:
Player - With Braves K's - K's Total
John Smoltz - 2,920 - 2,920
Phil Niekro - 2,912 - 3,342
Warren Spahn - 2,493 - 2,583
Tom Glavine - 2,054 - 2,555
Greg Maddux - 1,828 - 3,249
Kid Nichols - 1,672 - 1,873
Vic Willis - 1,161 - 1,651
Jim Whitney - 1,157 - 1,571
Lew Burdette - 923 - 1,074
Charlie Buffinton - 911 - 1,700
Smoltz ranks 16th on the all-time strikeouts list.
Player - Total K's
Nolan Ryan - 5,714
Roger Clemens - 4,661
Randy Johnson - 4,616
Steve Carlton - 4,136
Burt Blyleven - 3,701
Tom Seaver - 3,640
Don Sutton - 3,574
Gaylord Perry - 3,534
Walter Johnson - 3,508
Phil Niekro - 3,342
The right-hander is sixth among active pitchers:
Player, Team - K's
Roger Clemens, Yankees - 4,661
Randy Johnson, D'backs - 4,616
Greg Maddux, Padres - 3,249
Curt Schilling, Red Sox - 3,094
Pedro Martinez, Red Sox - 2,998
John Smoltz, Braves - 2,920
Mike Mussina, Yankees - 2,647
Tom Glavine, Mets - 2,555
David Wells, Free Agent - 2,112
Jamie Moyer, Phillies - 2,091