I am not going to say I told you so because it is only one start but the John Smoltz era in St. Louis got off to a terrific start tonight. The Cardinals, arguably the hottest team in baseball, beat the lowly Padres 5-2 on the backs of Smoltz, Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols.
Smoltz pitched five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and no walks, while striking out an impressive nine batters. He even sat down seven consecutive Padres with strikes, which is a personal best and possibly a Cardinals record. Smoltz threw 75 pitches, which is solid considering the high strikeout total, before giving way to the bullpen, which preserved the lead. Smoltz fastball sat around 93-94, and he featured his signature splitter and strong slider. He obviously still has the stuff to compete at the major league level, and plans on having his career continue past this year.
"If I had mediocre stuff, I wouldn't have chosen this place. I could have probably chosen a lesser place with less pressure and just regained my confidence. Because I want to pitch next year. But I truly believed the whole time that I have what it takes. My fastball is good enough, my split's good enough and my slider is as good as it's ever been."
In my Inside The Majors piece I discussed Smoltz's impressive strikeout and walk rates with the Red Sox, and how his ERA was not indicative of his performance. He showed that tonight with by far his best outing of the year. He is scheduled to pitch Friday against the Nationals, so it is nice that he can get his groove back by facing the two worst teams in the NL in his first two starts. Only time will tell us how he performs against legitimate major league hitters, but this is a promising start.