John Smoltz will take his 5-0 postseason record to the bullpen as Steve Avery and Greg Maddux pitch Games 1 and 2 for the Atlanta Braves in the National League playoff.
Smoltz, who would have started a Western Division playoff game with the San Francisco Giants if it had been needed Monday night, will not face the Philadelphia Phillies until Game 4.
"There's no way I'd stand here and second-guess the manager, but I'd be a fool to say I'm not disappointed," Smoltz said. "I'd be a fool to say I didn't want to pitch Game 1. If anyone here doesn't want to start Game 1, something must be wrong with them."
The Braves chose to keep Avery (18-6), Maddux (20-10) and Tom Glavine (22-6) on a regular rotation, leaving Smoltz (15-11) available for a spot relief assignment in Games 1 or 2. Smoltz also had an 8.27 ERA over his last three starts, and was admittedly "too fired up" when he pitched in Thursday's 10-8 loss to the Houston Astros.
"I'm not stupid," he said. "I know I haven't pitched well recently. But I've had roller-coaster seasons and thrived in the postseason. I'm not being selfish or egotistical. The record is there, and I take pride in it."
Only catcher Darren Daulton and relief pitcher Larry Andersen remain from the last Phillie team to reach the playoffs, in 1983. Daulton had three late season at-bats that year, but did not return to stay until 1985. Andersen, who had already pitched for Cleveland and Seattle, spent parts of four seasons with the Phillies, went on to Houston, Boston and San Diego, then returned this year as a free agent.
The difference from '83 to now?
"Well," Andersen said, "the economy is a lot worse and we have a female president."
Much of the Phillie hopes in this playoff hinge on the success of left-handed hitters Daulton, Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk against left-handers Avery and Glavine.
"Our left-handers have done very well against them because they take away the change up, their best pitch," Phillie Manager Jim Fregosi said. "It's the same as neutralizing their power."
The changeup from Avery and Glavine breaks away from right-handers but comes down and in on left-handers, making it an attractive offering.
Dykstra has a career average of .444 against Avery and .345 against Glavine. Kruk has batted .333 against Avery and .237 against Glavine. Daulton has batted .167 against Avery but .375 against Glavine.
The two Atlanta left-handers were each 1-1 against the Phillies this season but were raked in the process. Avery gave up 12 hits and five earned runs in 13 innings, while Glavine gave up 21 hits and 15 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings.