Braves legend John Smoltz explains why he was so clutch (Video)

Aug 16, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz (29) waves to fans before a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz (29) waves to fans before a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Braves’ legendary pitcher explained why he was so clutch in the most important games of his career.

In baseball, there were always those stars who step up when it matters the most. Whether that was avoiding a potential elimination in the postseason, winning the division, or helping the team clinch a spot in the World Series. Perhaps the most clutch pitcher in MLB history was John Smoltz.

The legendary Atlanta Braves ace has pitched in three Game 7’s in his career and only surrendered a grand total of two earned runs. How was he so clutch in those nerve-wracking moments? In an exclusive interview with FanSided, Smoltz described how he would calm himself down before big games to the point where he was able to take a nap.

"“Well, I always wanted to be there,” Smoltz told FanSided. “That doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success. But if you don’t approach it like you want to be there, you’re giving yourself less chance to be successful. I was never afraid to fail. As a kid growing up I wanted the ball whether it was basketball, football or baseball. Right at the last moment I believed in myself more than anyone else. And you know, I was able to relax and the game slowed down the bigger it was, that’s why I could take a nap. And that’s why I was so prepared for those games. Everybody else sometimes treats it as the biggest moments of their lives. And they’re so kind of connected to the outcome without the process being played out. I had lived it as a kid and I pitched every imaginable seventh game up against a brick wall. I did it all and I imagined that one day it would be just like I played when I was 12 or 13 outside the brick wall of our home. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that Game Seven played out exactly the way I thought. Now, to your point, you know it’s hard to believe I wasn’t a 3-0 but baseball can be pretty cruel and to not give up a run a Game Seven and the team loses is devastating. And then the only runs I gave up I thought we were going to lose that game and we came back in the ninth so, yeah,  I’d rather be on the other side of the 1-0 losses I’ve had in my career, The 1-0 loss to [Yusmeiro] Petit stings in 1996. Obviously the 1-0, game against [Jim] Morris, but each and every one of those games I was ready for the moment and I really believe that watching other people perform at the highest level in their sports you can tell whose heartbeat is slow enough to handle whatever is being thrown at them.”"

Smoltz clutch in Game 7’s

Smoltz’s three-win or go home contests all took place during the 1991 and 1992 postseasons. The first game took place in the 1991 NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he struck out eight batters, walked one hitter and surrendered six hits in the 4-0 Braves victory.

His second Game 7 took place in that year’s World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Although Smoltz did not give up a single earned run in his 7.1 innings of work, the issue was that the Twins had Jack Morris, who pitched all 10 innings of the game. The Twins would hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after a walk-off RBI single by Gene Larkin.

Smoltz’s final Game 7 took place in the 1992 NLCS. Facing the Pirates once again, Smoltz surrendered two earned runs on four hits in six innings of work. Despite that, the Braves overcame a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 3-2 and advance to the World Series for the second consecutive year. In fact, Smoltz won the NLCS MVP for his effort throughout the series.

So if you ever wondered what it takes to be locked in at the biggest game of the season, heed the words from Smoltz, whose confidence in his abilities allowed him to relax and take a nap before win or go home games.

Next. Dustin Pedroia shares motivational message with 2021 Red Sox. dark

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