Smoltz's stint marred by long ball
Braves' ace gives up homer in second inning of All-Star Game
DETROIT -- It didn't matter that he'd experienced this grand event six previous times. By the time John Smoltz took the mound at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, he had already realized this was going to be an All-Star Game he'd forever remember.
Unfortunately for him, history will remember it simply as another one in which the one run he surrendered led to his second career All-Star Game loss.
While Smoltz's responsibility consisted of simply recording three outs for the National League in the 7-5 loss to the American League, he'll always be able to cherish the fact that was given the chance to complete at least one inning on a grand stage in front of a number of proud friends and family members from his native Michigan.
The only damage surrendered by Smoltz came when Miguel Tejada opened the second inning with a solo shot into the left-field seats. Ironically, a smiling Smoltz, claimed that it landed near Carl Wagner, a high school coach from Lansing, Mich., who became like a second father to him.
"I certainly didn't want to give up that homer right there," said Smoltz, who has allowed just two runs in the 5 2/3 innings he's compiled in seven Midsummer Classics."But one of the things that I've learned from my previous All-Star Games was that I was going to have fun today."
Smoltz, who was born in Detroit and raised in Lansing, spent much of the hours before the game realizing there were many friends that time hadn't allowed him to see. But the effects of a hectic two-day stretch didn't prevent him from realizing how important it would be to his parents to see him on the mound in the next few hours.
"You know me, I don't like to wait," Smoltz said about three hours before the first pitch. "It's hard for me to spend this much time at a ballpark."
Fortunately for Smoltz he didn't have to wait long. After the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter tossed a scoreless first inning, the Braves' veteran hurler entered and immediately fell victim to Tejada's power. The Orioles shortstop seemed to know the veteran hurler was going to attempt to come inside again with a fastball.
"I threw a bad pitch," Smoltz said. "During the regular season, I would have never tried that back to back. Tejada is such a great talent. Unfortunately, I got him out that way in Atlanta [two weeks ago]. I probably shouldn't have tried to press my luck."
Against his final four batters of the evening, the only hit surrendered by Smoltz came courtesy of an infield single by his good friend Jason Varitek.
Smoltz's other All-Star Game loss came during his debut in 1999. That one run scored against him came when Bo Jackson beat out a potential inning-ending double play grounder that Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Ryne Sandberg were attempting to turn.
"You tell yourself, 'It doesn't matter how you do, do the best that you can,'" Smoltz said. "But the atmosphere is different. The hitters are different. Everybody is different. It's not like a regular game when you can set up hitters. You don't know what to do but, just throw your best pitches."
During Smoltz's era as a closer, he was slected to play in both the 2002 and 2003 All-Star Games. This was his first selection as a starter since his 1996 NL Cy Young Award-winning season.
This was one special because it was in Detroit, where he'd always envisioned playing until the Tigers traded him at the age of 20 to the Braves. But now, at the age of 38, he's proven that he could make the successful conversion back to the starting rotation and that future All-Star Game appearances shouldn't be ruled out.
During Monday night's Home Run Derby, he promised his son, John Andrew, that he could shag balls in the outfield when he makes his next All-Star Game appearance.
Given that he's lived up to his promise that he'd thrive once again in the starter's role, there's no reason to believe he's just closed out the All-Star portion of his career.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.