ATLANTA — John Smoltz wasn’t going to give in to the St. Louis Cardinals. If he had to keep pitching his way out of trouble, so be it.
Smoltz scattered nine hits and four walks, both season highs, for his second straight win, outdueling Jeff Suppan to lead the Atlanta Braves past the Cardinals 2-1 on Sunday.
The Braves won for the eighth time in 10 games despite getting outhit 10-4. Atlanta took two of three from St. Louis in a weekend series matching two of the NL’s best teams.
All three games were decided by one run.
“That was a great series,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “All three games were about as good as you would want.”
Smoltz wasn’t at his best. Trying to shake off a cold, he was put to the test all afternoon by one of the league’s most dangerous lineups. Give him a passing grade.
“I was not going to give in,” he said. “I wanted to make them hit my pitch. They laid off a lot of good ones.”
Smoltz (2-3) returned to the starting rotation this year after three-plus seasons as a top closer. He lost his first three decisions, mainly because of a lack of run support, and he didn’t have much room for error against the Cardinals.
In 6 2/3 innings, Smoltz never retired the side in order, forcing him to work out of the stretch most of the day. But he got out of two major jams by retiring Scott Rolen, stranding a total of five runners.
The Braves broke a scoreless duel in the sixth with two runs, and Chris Reitsma helped Smoltz escape a last bit of trouble in the seventh.
Dan Kolb, who picked up his first win for Atlanta on Saturday, worked the ninth for his seventh save in eight tries. Though his ERA is still 6.55, he’s feeling more comfortable with his new team.
“A lot of it was coming into a new place and putting so much pressure on myself,” Kolb said. “It was a case of trying to do too much.”
Suppan (2-3) pitched seven strong innings, but the high-scoring St. Louis offense was shut down again by the Braves’ pitching. Atlanta won 3-2 the previous night.
“Two runs were enough for them,” Suppan said. “When you’re going against pitching like that, it’s tough.”
Smoltz had the only hit off Suppan through the first five innings, but the Braves finally put together a couple of hits in the sixth. Wilson Betemit led off with a walk, moved to second on Smoltz’s sacrifice bunt and came home when Rafael Furcal slapped an opposite-field double down the third-base line. Ryan Langerhans followed with an RBI single to right-center.