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Smoltz, Jones lead Braves to 8-0 victory

MIAMI - With John Smoltz on the mound and Chipper Jones at the plate, their team looked like the Atlanta Braves of old.

The Braves got Thursday night's game off to their worst start since 1990, but Smoltz and Jones provided a lift to help beat the Florida Marlins 8-0.

Smoltz pitched five shutout innings and struck out 10, increasing his career total to 2,996. Jones went 4-for-4 with two homers and three RBIs.

There were other heroes: Atlanta hit five homers, including three in a row off Ricky Nolasco. Four relievers combined to pitch four hitless innings and complete a three-hitter with 16 strikeouts.

But Smoltz and Jones remain the best thing about this year's dismal start for the injury-plagued Braves, who snapped a three-game losing streak and won for only the third time in 10 road games.

Smoltz lowered his ERA to 0.56 and improved to 3-0 in three starts, while the rest of the Braves staff is 3-9. He walked none, allowed only three hits and reached double figures in strikeouts for the 44th time.

Jones raised his batting average to .443. He had an RBI double in the first and a homer in the third, and with two out in the fifth, Jones, Mark Teixera and Brian McCann hit consecutive home runs in a span of 12 pitches.

The multihomer game was the 37th of Jones' career. Kelly Johnson added a two-run homer in the sixth.

Nolasco (1-1) gave up nine hits - all for extra bases - and left after McCann's homer put Atlanta ahead 6-0. The last time the Braves hit three consecutive homers was on May 28, 2003, against Cincinnati.

Smoltz was sharp from the start, striking out the side on 12 pitches in the first inning. He had eight strikeouts after 31/3 innings, but because he began the season on the disabled list with shoulder tightness, he departed as a precaution after throwing only 81 pitches.

Florida had runners at second and third with none out in the second, but two strikeouts and a popup allowed Smoltz to escape. After Hanley Ramirez reached second with none out in the third, Smoltz retired the next three batters.

Notes: Braves RHP Tim Hudson said he felt fine Thursday, less than 24 hours after struggling with his velocity and lasting only three innings in a loss to Florida. ... RHP Jeff Bennett will start Friday when the Braves open a homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... Marlins 2B Dan Uggla, batting .179, was given the night off. ... Jones improved to 6-for-10 lifetime against Nolasco.