Texas catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia grew up watching John Smoltz pitch, then began his major league career on the same team.
While Saltalamacchia never got to catch Smoltz in a game before being traded halfway through his rookie season two years ago, he finally got to hit against him on Monday night – and knocked him out of the game.
Saltalamacchia homered on the next pitch after David Murphy‘s two-run shot in the sixth, chasing Smoltz as the Rangers beat the suddenly slumping Boston Red Sox 6-3.
“It was surreal,” Saltalamacchia said.
Smoltz (1-3) was still with Atlanta when Saltalamacchia made his major league debut before being traded to Texas. They finally played in the same game when the 42-year-old Smoltz made his fifth start for Boston since shoulder surgery last summer.
“He was throwing a great game,” Texas’ Michael Young said. “He still has good life on his fastball, has a really tight bite on his slider. … Fortunately, we strung together some good at-bats and broke through with a big inning.”
Young led off the sixth with his third hit, a homer to left that tied the game 2-2.
Hank Blalock then had an RBI single before scoring on Murphy’s homer. Pitching coach John Farrell visited the mound, but Saltalamacchia hit the next pitch onto the grassy hill in straightaway center and Smoltz was done – after giving up three homers in an inning for only the second time in his 21-year career.
“The two-run homer was the backbreaker for me. I’m frustrated. I’m pleased with the way I’m throwing the baseball, but the results have been awful. They haven’t matched the effort,” Smoltz said. “I’ll have a hard time sleeping tonight.”
The Red Sox have lost three straight, the latest loss allowing the New York Yankees to tie them for the AL East lead. Boston has scored only six runs in those losses.
“We’re certainly not hitting on all cylinders. Sometimes this game can frustrate you a little bit,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’ve got to keep fighting because sometimes it’s not as easy as you want it to be.”
Texas trailed 2-1 when Kevin Millwood (9-7) threw his last pitch to end the top of the sixth. But the Rangers finally got to Smoltz, who hadn’t allowed a home run in 25 innings this season until Young’s homer.
“I was real happy when Michael hit the home run to tie it up. You don’t expect to score five runs in an inning off a guy like that,” Millwood said. “I was happy that we scored some runs and got the win, but it’s kind of bittersweet. I’d like to see (Smoltz) do a little better.”
Smoltz, who struck out five with no walks in 5 2-3 innings, and Millwood were teammates in Atlanta from 1997-2002, the first six seasons of Millwood’s career.
Millwood allowed two runs over six innings to win his sixth straight decision over his last nine home starts. Before an extended All-Star break that gave him eight days between starts, Millwood had given up 17 runs in 17 1-3 innings in his first three July starts.
“I think the time off made him look stronger out there,” manager Ron Washington said.
C.J. Wilson got the final four outs for his eighth save in 10 chances. Wilson was in the closer role for Frank Francisco, put on the disabled list Monday for the third time this season, this time because he is unavailable with a slight case of pneumonia.
Blalock also had an RBI double for Texas, which moved within 2 1/2 games of the Los Angeles Angels after the AL West leaders were rained out Monday night in Kansas City.
Boston led 2-0 in the fourth after Jason Varitek hit a two-out RBI double that sent J.D. Drew home, though Mike Lowell was thrown out trying to score on the play.
David Ortiz had an RBI double off the center-field wall in the first. Kevin Youkilis had an RBI single in the eighth to plate Jacoby Ellsbury, who was in scoring position after his 41st stolen base – the 100th of his career.
Smoltz allowed four homers in the first inning June 19, 1994 vs. Cincinnati when pitching for Atlanta. He hadn’t allowed three homers in a game since June 8, 1997, at San Francisco. … The only other three-game losing streak for the Red Sox was April 12-14. … Millwood is 7-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 11 starts at Rangers Ballpark this season. … Ellsbury has six stolen bases his last eight games. Tris Speaker (1912-14) is the only other Boston player with multiple 40-stolen base seasons.