John Smoltz, sitting on 2,999 strikeouts, had two strikes on Felipe Lopez. With the home crowd cheering, Smoltz went with the pitch he still credits for helping win the '96 NL Cy Young Award: the split-finger fastball.
Lopez whiffed, and Smoltz became the 16th pitcher in major league history to reach the 3,000-strikeout plateau.
Smoltz got two standing ovations and a video tribute. About the only thing he didn't get was a victory.
The 40-year-old was outpitched by rookie John Lannan in the Washington Nationals' 6-0 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
The crowd at Turner Field gave Smoltz two ovations, and the huge Mitsubishi TV screen flashed many of his career highlights.
"Today, for one single moment," Smoltz said, "it was an incredible feeling."
In other NL games Tuesday, it was: Milwaukee 9, St. Louis 8; Chicago 8, New York 1; Pittsburgh 3, Florida 2; Cincinnati 8, Los Angeles 1; Houston 11, San Diego 7; Philadelphia 8, Colorado 6; and Arizona 5, San Francisco 4.
Lopez will now forever be a footnote in baseball history, the answer to a trivia question. Against the split-finger pitch Smoltz first debuted in the 1992 NLCS, Lopez felt he had little chance.
"That guy is good," Lopez said. "He's freaking nasty. He's tough. He never follows a pattern. He changes it up."
Smoltz got a congratulatory text message from his friend Greg Maddux, already a member of the exclusive club.
"I already got a text (message) from Maddux," Smoltz said, "He said I've lost one hair for every strikeout I've made."
Smoltz's two teenage daughters watched the game from the front row behind the Braves' dugout. His parents were in Arizona but left a message on his cell phone.
Nationals team president Stan Kasten, who used to work in the same capacity for Atlanta, walked through the Braves' clubhouse to shake the pitcher's hand.
Among the 15 pitchers ahead of him on the 3,000 strikeout list, Smoltz reached the mark faster than all but Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens.
Maddux is the only other active pitcher with more strikeouts (3,287).
Lannan, a rookie, allowed five hits in seven innings and the Nationals snapped a three-game losing streak. Washington had lost six of seven and is just 3-15 since winning its first three games of the season.
"A win like that, with John Smoltz chasing 3,000 strikeouts, is worth two or three losses," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "It was nice regardless of the score."
The Braves' five-game winning streak ended.
Smoltz (3-1) allowed a run and five hits in seven innings, and didn't walk a batter. Still, his ERA rose 22 points to 0.78. He got no run support from an offense that came into the game leading the NL with a .286 average.
Willie Harris' RBI double in the second gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Washington added five runs in the ninth off reliever Jorge Campillo, who made a throwing error in the inning. Four of the runs were unearned.
Smoltz was quick to acknowledge Lannan's performance in the face of history.
"I've got to tip my hat to Lannan," Smoltz said. "He outpitched me."
Phillies 8, Rockies 6
At Denver, Pat Burrell's bases-clearing double off Manny Corpas in the ninth inning helped Philadelphia sweep a two-game series against the team that swept them in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Corpas was two outs away from the save when Burrell sent a 2-2 fastball past diving center fielder Willy Taveras in the gap in left-center.
Brewers 9, Cardinals 8
At Milwaukee, Gabe Kapler singled home the winning run with one out in the 12th inning and the Brewers overcame another blown save by Eric Gagne, beating the Cardinals.
The Brewers wasted a five-run lead before Kapler's hit. The Cardinals' loss came with an oddity: Slugger Albert Pujols wound up playing second base for the first time in his big league career.
Cubs 8, Mets 1
At Chicago, Ronny Cedeno hit a grand slam and drove in five runs, Ted Lilly won for the first time in five starts, and surging Chicago won for the 13th time in 16 games.
The Cubs, who were 7-13 at this point a season ago, had 14 hits and improved to 14-6, their best record after 20 games since 1975.
Astros 11, Padres 7
At Houston, Kaz Matsui's two-run single in the eighth inning lifted the Astros.
Cy Young winner Jake Peavy allowed four earned runs, matching the total for his four previous starts combined. The Padres ace allowed seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings.
Diamondbacks 5, Giants 4
At Phoenix, Brandon Webb hit a two-run double and improved to 5-0 as Arizona defeated San Francisco.
Webb, off to the best start of his career, beat San Francisco's Barry Zito (0-5) for the second time in six days. Webb's five victories match the total of the Giants' rotation. He allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out a season-high seven.
Pirates 3, Marlins 2
At Pittsburgh, Xavier Nady's two-run single completed a three-run Pirates comeback after a questionable call apparently cost them a run in the sixth inning, and Pittsburgh ended a six-game losing streak.
Reds 8, Dodgers 1
At Cincinnati, Jerry Hairston Jr. had four hits in his debut as Cincinnati's leadoff hitter, and Adam Dunn and Brandon Phillips each homered, leading the Reds over the Dodgers.
Edinson Volquez (3-0) remained unbeaten in four starts by giving up three hits and a run in seven innings, his longest appearance for Cincinnati so far.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.