In the city that was his baseball home when he broke into the major leagues 14 years ago, Jason Schmidt experienced a rebirth of sorts Friday night.
The non-waiver trade deadline passed without the Dodgers acquiring a starting pitcher, but they might have found the fifth member of their rotation in this softer-throwing version of Schmidt, who earned the victory in a 5-0 win over the Atlanta Braves by limiting his former team to a single hit over six scoreless innings.
No matter how the rest of the season unfolds for the former All-Star, Schmidt has come back from a shoulder operation that required a lengthy rehabilitation process to score a triumph beyond his imagination in his third game in two years.
"Very surprising," Schmidt said. "I hate to say that because it doesn't sound good. But it's been a roller coaster from day one, from start to start. I'm enjoying it while it lasts. It might not be forever."
Schmidt (2-1), who has said he probably will retire when his three-year, $47-million contract expires at the end of the season, wasn't even assured of making this start. He gave up five runs in three innings to Florida in a loss Sunday and only a solid bullpen session Tuesday convinced him and Manager Joe Torre that he should take the ball again on this day.
Or did it?
"It's debatable whether I was going to make this start," Schmidt said. "I wasn't sure if they wanted me to, I wasn't sure if I wanted to."
Either way, this much was clear: A repeat of Sunday could have ended his season and, by extension, his career. If he was hit hard again, Torre said, "it would have been tough to send him out there again. There's no question."
A change in his delivery is what made the difference.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Schmidt had fallen into some bad habits when hurt. Honeycutt observed that Schmidt used his legs better Friday and had a better arc with his arm.
"He's pitching like he wants to win," catcher Russell Martin said. "It's not looking like he's pitching not to get hurt."
Schmidt walked five but made pitches when he had to make them.
And he received help when a scoreless stalemate was broken in the fifth inning on a three-run home run by Andre Ethier. The homer was Ethier's 21st of the season, establishing a career high for the right fielder.
Schmidt said he was torn when Torre sent Juan Pierre to hit for him in the seventh inning.
"I'm standing there and half of me said, 'All right, I'm going to tell them I'm going to go back out,' " he said. . "The other half of me is like, 'You really don't know what you are yet.' It's tough to come out because your instinct says you're the guy who can close the game out, gain velocity as the game goes along, but that's not who I am anymore."
The most glaring reminder of that came in an outdated scouting report on Schmidt that flashed on the scoreboard in the fifth inning. It informed the crowd that he had a mid-90s fastball. Schmidt topped out at 89 mph.
"I think [the Braves] read that before the game and they didn't know what happened," Schmidt said, laughing.
Schmidt wasn't the only pitcher to make a statement on this night.
George Sherrill, the left-hander acquired from Baltimore on Thursday, made his Dodgers debut with two on and none out in the seventh inning to protect a 4-0 lead. Sherrill struck out three of the four batters he faced.
"I just wanted to go right after them," Sherrill said.
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big night IN ATLANTA
*--* IP H R ER BB SO NP 6 1 0 0 5 3 87 *--*