John Smoltz dominated through eight innings, setting the Braves franchise strikeout record and snapping the surging Arizona Diamondbacks' four-game winning streak.
But if it were up to the veteran right-hander, he would have been out there for the ninth.
``I just wanted to because I was feeling so good,'' said Smoltz, who threw 118 pitches but unsuccessfully lobbied with Braves manager Bobby Cox for a few more in Atlanta's 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday. ``He made the wiser choice.''
Bob Wickman got Orlando Hudson to ground out with the bases loaded in the ninth to end it.
The 40-year-old Smoltz began the day four behind Phil Niekro's 2,912 strikeouts with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. Smoltz passed the milestone by setting down Mark Reynolds in the third inning.
``Knucksie's one of the icons of the Braves organization,'' said Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. ``For John to pass him, he's pretty jacked up about it. It's another cool achievement in a very long career.''
Smoltz (11-6) gave up only five hits and two runs and Mark Teixeira drove in four runs with two homers for the Braves, who trail the New York Mets by 5 1/2 games in the NL East and San Diego by 1 1/2 games in the wild-card standings.
In other NL games, it was: New York 8, Washington 2; Cincinnati 7, Milwaukee 6; San Diego 5, Houston 3; Los Angeles 4, Colorado 3; Pittsburgh 8, Philadelphia 4; and San Francisco 6, Florida 5. Chicago and St. Louis were rained out at Wrigley Field.
Smoltz, who called the team record ``an honor that I'll think about later,'' has a 3.05 ERA overall but only two wins since June.
Maybe that's why he told Cox he was in a ``groove'' and pleaded to stay in the game.
``I said 'Groove? You're completely unhittable. Nobody stands a chance,''' said Cox, who opted for caution in not pushing Smoltz, who has pitched with a sore shoulder at times this season.
``He's just dynamic,'' Hudson said. ``He throws strikes. He's a handful.''
Teixeira hit two-run homers in the first and third innings, giving him seven in 17 games with Atlanta and 20 for the season.
Yunel Escobar added a homer as the Braves scored six runs and seven hits _ each for extra bases _ in the first four innings.
``The thing about me is I don't have any pressure on me,'' Teixeira said. ``This lineup is so good, the players around me are so good that I can just go out there and be myself.''
Yusmeiro Petit (2-4) gave up three homers and six runs in 3 2-3 innings. He was recalled from Triple-A Tucson to make his ninth start for Arizona.
The Braves snapped the Diamondbacks' four-game winning streak. Arizona won the first two games against the Braves and have won 10 of 11 series since the All-Star break.
``It was very much a must-win and I approached it that way,'' Smoltz said.
Mets 8, Nationals 2
At Washington, Carlos Beltran homered twice and drove in four runs, and Orlando Hernandez (8-4) won his fourth straight decision for the Mets.
Shawn Green's two-run single in the eighth put New York in front 4-2 and sparked a four-run rally. Marlon Anderson also had a two-run double off reliever Jon Rauch (8-4).
Reds 7, Brewers 6
At Milwaukee, pinch-hitter Javier Valentin's bases-loaded, two-run double off Scott Linebrink (4-4) in the eighth inning sent the Brewers to their sixth loss in seven games.
Reliever Bill Bray (2-0) pitched a third of an inning to earn the win. David Weathers got Prince Fielder to ground out with two on in the ninth for his 25th save in 30 chances.
Padres 5, Astros 3
At San Diego, Greg Maddux (9-9) held Houston to two hits in six innings and had two hits himself to earn his 342nd win, tying him with Tim Keefe for ninth on the all-time list.
Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo homer off Matt Albers (3-6), and Brian Giles had three hits and an RBI. Trevor Hoffman gave up Mike Lamb's RBI single in the ninth before striking out Eric Bruntlett with two runners on for his 31st save in 34 chances.
Dodgers 4, Rockies 3
At Los Angeles, Ramon Martinez hit a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth inning off Jorge Julio (0-4) and finished with three RBIs for the Dodgers.
Scott Proctor (2-0) earned the win despite giving up Todd Helton's two-run homer in the top of the inning. Takashi Saito struck out the side in the ninth for his 33rd save in 36 attempts.
Pirates 8, Phillies 4
At Pittsburgh, Nate McLouth tied it off J.C. Romero (0-1) and Freddy Sanchez hit a go-ahead RBI double off Antonio Alfonseca as the Pirates rallied past the Phillies.
Ian Snell (8-10) got his first victory since July 4 despite allowing eight hits and walking three while striking out 10 over seven innings.
Giants 6, Marlins 5
At Miami, the Giants scored three runs after a trio of Florida errors _ one by reliever Lee Gardner (3-4) _ in the seventh inning to make a winner of Vinnie Chulk (5-4).
Brad Hennessey stranded runners on the corners in the ninth for his 12th save in 14 chances.
Barry Bonds, who extended baseball's home run record to 760 on Saturday, got the day off.