ATLANTA (AP) – John Smoltz thinks neck stiffness won’t prevent him from keeping on track to make four straight starts against NL East rivals of the Atlanta Braves.

After allowing three runs and seven hits in Thursday night’s 8-7, 10-inning loss to Washington, Smoltz said he was bothered by neck stiffness. He thinks a knot developed on the left side of his neck from an awkward slide while scoring against Milwaukee last Saturday. The stiffness limited his mobility and vision on the mound and made it more difficult to control his “finesse pitches.”

“I fought it most of the night,” Smoltz said Friday. “I thought I pitched great warming up, then all of a sudden it wasn’t normal.”

Smoltz, who had a cortisone shot earlier in the week, is set to start against New York, Washington, the Mets again and Philadelphia.

“I would like to gear myself to stay on track,” he said.


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