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Smoltz sharp as Braves pound Mets

Sep 27, 2006 - 2:21 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- With the playoffs out of reach for the Atlanta Braves, Edgar Renteria, Andruw Jones and John Smoltz have not given up on the season.

Renteria drove in four runs, Jones hit his 40th homer and Smoltz hurled eight outstanding innings to power the Braves to a 12-0 rout over the archrival New York Mets.

Over the past decade, Turner Field in late September has often been the site of many classic matchups between the Braves and Mets, with Atlanta usually prevailing. But this has been the year of the Mets, who held an 18-game advantage over Atlanta and had already clinched home-field advantage in the National League playoffs coming into this one.

By contrast, the Braves will not play in the postseason for the first time since 1990 as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention Sunday. Nevertheless, there was no sign that Atlanta was ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Atlanta took a 3-0 lead off in the first off Mets starter Oliver Perez (3-13) and never looked back. Willy Aybar, who started when Chipper Jones was scratched with a sore right foot, led off with a double, advanced on a single by Marcus Giles and scored on Renteria's sacrifice fly.

Andruw Jones followed by smashing an 0-1 offering from Perez over the left-center field wall.

The Curacao native became the first player in Atlanta Braves history and third in franchise history to hit 40 homers in back-to-back seasons. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews did it from 1953-55 and home run king Hank Aaron smashed 40-plus homers in the 1962-63 campaigns.

"It's a good, solid season when you hit 40 home runs," Andruw Jones said. "It's tough, but if you stay focused and go out there every day, those numbers come up."

That would be all the run support that Smoltz (15-9) needed. The only player remaining from the last Atlanta team to miss the playoffs scattered six hits, walked two and struck out six.

"I have so much pride, I can't allow myself to go through the motions," Smoltz said. "For me, there's a lot of self-satisfaction to go out and make good pitches."

"I think Smoltz has been doing this against every team, not just us," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "That's the kind of pitching we'll face in the playoffs. We need to get ready."

Smoltz's final strikeout, a punchout of Carlos Beltran in the top of the eighth, moved the 1996 Cy Young Award winner into a tie with Frank Tanana for 19th place on the all-time list with 2,773.

"It was pretty neat," said Smoltz, a Michigan native. "Frank Tanana was a guy that threw in Detroit. (It's satisfying) to get inside the top 20 after really having four or five years off (when I was a closer)."

Macay McBride allowed two hits in a scoreless ninth.

Aybar homered in the third and Matt Diaz added a solo shot in the fourth for the Braves. Andruw Jones scored on a sacrifice fly by Diaz in the sixth to chase Perez, who allowed six runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Brian McCann plated Ryan Langerhans with a double in the eighth and scored on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Daryle Ward. After Heath Bell walked Aybar to load the bases, Marcus Giles delivered an RBI single and Renteria capped the scoring with a bases-clearing double.

"They came out to play like they always do," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We had plenty of run support tonight."

Paul Lo Duca collected two hits for the Mets, who have lost nine of their last 12 games.

"We haven't played well the last six or seven games," Lo Duca said. "Smoltz had good stuff tonight, but we want to start playing a little better and start clicking more going into the playoffs."

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