Lopez should know. In the third inning of Tuesday's game, Lopez became part of history when Smoltz struck him out for career strikeout No. 3,000. But the Nationals ended up winning the game, 6-0, to break their three-game losing streak.
Smoltz had 2,996 career strikeouts entering the game and was able to pick up the four necessary to reach the milestone quickly. In the second inning, he struck out Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns. An inning later, history was made when Smoltz struck out John Lannan and Lopez, who whiffed on an 0-2 pitch. Smoltz finished with 10 strikeouts in the game.
"He's a great pitcher," Lopez said. "He's tough. He doesn't fall into any patterns. He always changes it up. That's why he is so tough."
3,000th strikeout victims
|John Smoltz||4/22/2008||Nationals||Felipe Lopez|
|Pedro Martinez||9/3/2007||Reds||Aaron Harang|
|Curt Schilling||8/30/2006||A's||Nick Swisher|
|Greg Maddux||7/26/2005||Giants||Omar Vizquel|
|Randy Johnson||9/10/2000||Marlins||Mike Lowell|
|Roger Clemens||7/5/1998||Rays||Randy Winn|
|Bert Blyleven||8/1/1986||A's||Mike Davis|
|Phil Niekro||7/4/1984||Rangers||Larry Parrish|
|Don Sutton||6/24/1983||Indians||Alan Bannister|
|Fergie Jenkins||5/25/1982||Padres||Gary Templeton|
|Steve Carlton||4/29/1981||Expos||Tim Wallach|
|Tom Seaver||4/18/1981||Cardinals||Keith Hernandez|
|Nolan Ryan||7/4/1980||Reds||Cesar Geronimo|
|Gaylord Perry||10/1/1978||Dodgers||Joe Simpson|
|Bob Gibson||7/17/1974||Reds||Cesar Geronimo|
|Walter Johnson||7/22/1923||Indians||Stan Coveleski|
|courtesy of baseball-almanac.com|
Nationals players were in awe by what Smoltz accomplished. Reliever Ray King played with Smoltz in 2003, and King calls the right-hander the greatest competitor he has ever seen on the mound.
"John could probably play any sport and excel at it," King said. "When you are looking at a guy that is 40 years old and doing what he is doing, it's amazing. I commend him for getting his 3,000th strikeout, but as [Aaron Boone] said, 'We stuck it to him.' I think his ticket is already punched for the Hall of Fame. Three thousand strikeouts put an exclamation point on it."
Nationals president Stan Kasten served in the same capacity with the Braves from 1986 to 2003. After Tuesday's game, Kasten went in the Braves clubhouse and congratulated Smoltz for the accomplishment.
It was Aug. 12, 1987, when the Braves acquired Smoltz from the Tigers for right-hander Doyle Alexander. The trade became one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history.
"It was very rewarding. He is a Hall of Famer. He competed every single time he was out there. We knew he would be a Major Leaguer," Kasten said. "But how do you know if a guy is ever going to be a Cy Young Award winner and a Hall of Famer? It's great."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.