The crowd gave Smoltz a standing ovation as he walked off the mound after three strong innings, but the Augusta GreenJackets still managed to extend their season-high winning streak to five games with an 8-3 victory over the Greenville Drive.
Smoltz allowed only one hit in his scheduled three innings of work. The 42-year-old pitcher needed only 29 pitches to retire nine of the 10 batters he faced. He walked none and struck out two.
"I accomplished everything I really wanted to accomplish and for me that's a tough task because when I know I've only got three innings I want to do too much and I didn't tonight," Smoltz said. "I really stayed patient with the same philosophy I've had the last three weeks."
Smoltz acknowledged the record crowd and standing ovation with a wave of his cap as he made his final walk to the visitors' dugout. The 20-year Atlanta Brave veteran signed with the Boston Red Sox in the offseason, but many in the stands still wore his Braves jersey.
"I didn't know what to expect, to be honest. I know what this town represents and how in the years I've come back here after we almost won the World Series how crazy they went when we signed autographs," he said.
"It was mixed emotions for me. I was really honored by the crowd. I know the process I'm about to go through is only going to get more hectic."
Smoltz, who got a no decision when he left after three innings with no score in the game, signed autographs before he left. The standing-room-only crowd applauded his efforts after every inning, but after Smoltz's night was over, the GreenJackets won the crowd back with a six-run sixth inning and plenty of clutch hitting in the victory.
"It was one of the most successful nights in baseball history in the city of Augusta," GreenJackets general manager Nick Brown said. "People got to see John Smoltz throw some innings and a GreenJackets win. Hopefully we converted some casual fans into GreenJackets fans tonight."
GreenJackets center fielder Juan Perez got the only hit off Smoltz with a ground ball that snuck under the glove of shortstop Oscar Tejeda to lead off the second inning. After Smoltz left, the GreenJackets used three Greenville errors to score six unearned runs.
Two errors and a single in the sixth loaded the bases for GreenJackets left fielder Wendell Fairley. The 2007 first-round draft pick drilled a two-out, three-RBI double to left field to blow the game open. Fairley later saved at least one run in the top of the eighth with a diving catch in the outfield that turned into a double play to end the inning.
"He was the player of the game for me tonight." GreenJackets manager Dave Machemer said. "He's playing better, and been working hard. The whole team has."
GreenJackets starter Paul Oseguera, overshadowed by Smoltz, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He gave up two earned runs and one hit over five innings but left the game trailing 2-0. Trey Webb (1-0) got the win in relief.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY THE NUMBERS
Here is a breakdown of John Smoltz's rehab start with the Greenville Drive against the Augusta GreenJackets on Thursday night:
TOTAL PITCHES: 29 (23 strikes, 6 balls)
BATTERS FACED: 10
HITS: One (Juan Perez singled to lead off the second inning)
WILD PITCH: One
RUNS ALLOWED: Zero