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October 7, 2004

John Smoltz


THE MODERATOR: Questions for John Smoltz.

Q. You have the best historical perspective. Is this the greatest accomplishment for the Braves this year, to have gotten to a postseason?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Yeah, absolutely. Doesn't really seem to matter, with the way the story lines change around here, but for a team that basically overcame a lot of obstacles and predictions and perspective, this has been, despite what we read and hear, this has been a very incredible year. The way we played this year is the way we are going to have to play in the postseason. When we lost a game, had many opportunities, we usually came back the next game and cashed in. But this is not your prototypical team of the '90s that would awe you with certain aspects of the game. So when you're with guys for 240 days, you realize what it takes to win a baseball game despite what everybody else's views of what your team is.

Q. Along those lines, you have three starters that are sort of banged up. Is it a little more difficult this year?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, that's what it's been, it's one through 25. We can't rely on any area of our team, we are not dominant in a sense of numbers; we're dominant in a sense of a unit that finds a way to win a baseball game. Mike Hampton has been unbelievable in the second half, so has Jaret Wright, so has John Thomson. They're banged up but they go out there and give everything they absolutely have. Chipper Jones has been banged up. There's other guys that have been banged up. Everybody deals with it this time of the year, and we're just going to find a way to, whether it's the eighth guy in the lineup or second or first guy in the lineup or the bullpen, find a way to win a baseball game and take it back to Houston.

Q. What do you think about having Beltran in that lineup, how much different does he make that team look?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, this has been a year where you can't figure out a lot of teams for some reason or another. A couple of them in our division have had their unfortunate timing of the season. Same thing with Houston. That was a lineup that could produce a lot of runs. They had, again, their share of injuries. When you have a guy like Carlos Beltran, who I consider one of the greatest unknown baseball players, he played in Kansas City for a long time, so I just think it gave them a lot more flexibility. They've been predominantly a right-handed hitting team and a pretty darn good one, but it gives them a left-handed bat in there along with, you know, along with others. So it just makes them that much more dangerous. Their ballpark is a unique ballpark, that they're going to put up some pretty good numbers. The way they won baseball games the last 10 days of the season has been indicative of how hot they are, even when things weren't going right with their starters. I think they used seven or eight pitchers in one game. So Carlos Beltran is the future of somebody's organization. He's been a great all-around star.

Q. Talk about what the Braves will be looking at when they face Oswalt today.

JOHN SMOLTZ: He's a gritty, nasty pitcher. He's won 20 games. I think the potential that's put on him for a long time has come through with the numbers, and was key to their success down the stretch, him and Clemens. I think he has an electric fastball with a change-of-speed curveball that you don't see that combination in pitchers. So we're going to have to be on our game as well. Any time you're in the postseason at this level, you're going to face No. 1s, No. 2s and No. 3s. They're all capable of winning 20 games, as far as I'm concerned.

Q. Having seen it now, coming into this series, and coming into a big game today, how does this clubhouse compare to some of the other Braves teams?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Well, it's no different from the standpoint of, you know, you're disappointed but you do something about being disappointed. I don't think in times before we had so many guys that could have been the guy; that maybe there was more of a relaxed kind of, "This guy will step up," or, "This guy will hit a home run," or, "This guy will pitch a shutout." This is more collectively, we have to find a way to execute. I think everybody knows what's at task for us, and it certainly has been frustrating to hear and see just a dramatic dropoff -- we win the game yesterday and we're just praised for an incredible thing. Now all of a sudden everybody's written us off. It's just been the year that we've dealt with. I've been here through all of it, so it's nothing different, and guys don't get real down in our clubhouse because we have the manager that doesn't allow it. We know what we have to do. Story lines change really fast, so... If we win today, go back to Houston, they'll be talking about their 17 in a row that they've won at home. Doing it for 13 years, I know what it's like.

Q. Is today a win-at-all-cost game?

JOHN SMOLTZ: Very much so. That's why Game 1s are important. That's why best-of-fives are not a favorite of any team that has to face whether it's the hottest team in the league or a team that's dangerous matchup-wise. We have to find a way to win today. Then you look at it as trying to get a split in their ballpark, if you get lucky enough to win two, that's great. But today is a must-win. Really, it's all in your view. It's what we can do versus what if. I mean, if you start thinking of "what ifs," and the dangers of this game, the pressure, it's like I've already heard, I mean, we've got praised for our youth and exuberance, the young guys we have. Then I also heard they're not used to the playoffs, some of the mistakes they might make because of their inexperience. It all comes down to winning a baseball game. Doesn't matter how it is. That's the way we're approaching it. By no means, I don't think each man thinks it's just going to happen, because that's been a feeling that sometimes in the past, we felt we were that good that we could just win a game when we had to, and sometimes that doesn't work.

End of FastScripts...

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