John Smoltz feels more at home in the Astrodome than he does at Turner Field -- at least when he's facing the Houston Astros.
Smoltz won his eighth straight decision and boosted his career record to 10-5 in the Astrodome, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 6-2 victory Wednesday night that snapped Houston's five-game winning streak.
"I wish I could take this place on the road with me," Smoltz said. "Sometimes when you have success in a place, it helps your confidence. They beat me here earlier this year but I've had some success here in the past."
The victory gave Atlanta a split in the two-game series between division leaders.
Smoltz is 3-7 against the Astros in Atlanta.
"I've always loved pitching here," Smoltz said. "I don't know why. This place agrees with me. It's not the kind of lineup that's easy to face but it's a pitcher's park."
"This was a big one for me. I guess the second half they're all big ones for me. But since I'm going to face them Monday and in the playoffs this was important. This was the best I've felt in a long time."
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones pulled muscles in his right rib cage in batting practice, then aggravated the injury when he flied out in the first inning. He left the game and is expected to miss a few days.
"When you get tweaked like that making contact, I can't imagine how bad it would have felt if I'd swung and missed completely," Jones said. "We'll wait and see how it feels. I'll miss a day if it means getting us a win, but hopeully it won't be more than that."
Smoltz (13-2) allowed five hits in seven strong innings and avenged a loss to the Astros on May 17. His only other loss came on June 26 against Toronto.
"He's been terrific," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's 13-2 and got the best winning percentage in baseball. That's how good he's been. I took him out but he could have stayed in."
The Braves have an 18-3 record in Smoltz's 21 starts. He is 9-1 since coming off the disabled list on June 20 after recovering from an inflamed elbow.
"We have tomorrow off and it looked like we took today off, too," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "We had our chances to get back in it but we didn't pitch as well or play as well as we have been."
Smoltz struck out seven and walked one. Houston's only run off him came in the fourth on an RBI triple from Carl Everett.
Atlanta scored three times in the fourth off Sean Bergman (11-7) for a 4-0 lead.
Ryan Klesko singled prior to Javy Lopez's 28th homer over the left-field fence, and Tony Graffanino hit an RBI single.
The Braves got a run in the third when Graffanino reached second on a throwing error by shortstop Tim Bogar and scored on a single by Walt Weiss. Andruw Jones, who had three hits, had an RBI double in the sixth that finished Bergman.
Jones also made a diving catch for the second out in the ninth inning.
"We hit a couple of balls out there and he got back and got them," Dierker said. "Then, that last inning, he runs in and gets one that normally is a hit. You almost have to hit one over the fence to get a hit out there."
The Braves scored their final run on Ozzie Guillen's ninth-inning double.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved