Reds' Hanson Beats Smoltz, 3-0

From Associated Press

Erik Hanson is finally coming out of his slump. John Smoltz's misery just keeps getting worse.

Hanson pitched eight shutout innings Thursday and the Cincinnati Reds scored twice off an injured Smoltz for a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Hanson (3-3) allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one to get his first victory since May 3. Only two runners reached scoring position against him. Chuck McElroy pitched a perfect ninth for his second save.

It was by far Hanson's best performance in his first season with the Reds, who thought they were getting a dependable starter when they got him in a trade with Seattle last November.

Injuries and illness set him back in spring training. He said his fastball finally was back to normal on Thursday.

"I'm feeling a little better every time out," he said. "At the start of the season, I wasn't ready. I didn't want to admit it. Every outing I've gone out and felt a little better, a little more confident."

Smoltz (2-6) couldn't feel much worse after his fifth straight loss, matching the longest slump of his career. He had a swollen leg to go with all the frustration.

Smoltz severely bruised his lower left leg while tagging Tony Fernandez out at the plate in the first inning, and needed several minutes to recover. He got ice between innings, but stayed in the game and pitched well enough to win. He allowed just three hits in seven innings, none after the third inning.

The right-hander walked three and struck out six before leaving for a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

The Braves have scored just nine runs during his five losses, including four in the last three.

"I guess I'm tired of giving the other pitcher credit," he said. "I love to work with something (a lead). Unfortunately, I haven't had that."

Same thing Thursday: He gives up one earned run and loses.

"He was outstanding," manager Bobby Cox said. "You can't pitch any better than that. He had a bruised leg, too."

That was little consolation.

"I'm 2-6 and I've heard 'great game" seven times," Smoltz said. "Personally, I'm satisfied with the way I'm throwing the ball. I'm frustrated that we haven't been able to win my games."

His only bad pitch Thursday was his first. Barry Larkin hit it for his third homer.

Fernandez followed with a single, took second on left fielder Ryan Klesko's wild relay throw and went to third on Hal Morris' groundout.

Fernandez tried to score when one of Smoltz's pitches bounced about 10 feet away from Charlie O'Brien, but the catcher recovered quickly and threw to Smoltz covering the plate. Fernandez slid in with his left foot high and rammed Smoltz's lower leg as he was tagged out.

Smoltz limped away from the plate, grimaced and threw the ball to the ground. He was treated for several minutes and stayed in the game, but got the leg iced.

"I'll have a tough time walking tomorrow," Smoltz said. "When it first happened I didn't know if I was going to be able to pitch. There was a tremendous throb."

The Reds added a run in the third when Larkin singled, took second as Klesko bobbled the ball for another error, then moved to third on O'Brien's passed ball. Morris then hit a sacrifice fly.

Fernandez singled home a run off Mike Stanton in the eighth.

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