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Smoltz's early exit hurts Braves

MILWAUKEE - Ben Sheets looked as if he'd never get to the sixth inning. Turns out, it was John Smoltz who had to leave early.

Sheets brushed off a poor first inning, Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 17th homer and J.J. Hardy added the go-ahead single to lead the Milwaukee Brewers past the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Smoltz, who recorded his 200th victory on Thursday, left the game in the fourth inning after a brief mound visit from the pitching coach and trainers after the first out. The right-hander hurt his shoulder while warming up for the inning and re-injured his right pinkie finger in his previous at-bat. The Braves said he was taken out as a precaution.

In the top of the inning, Smoltz shook his hand gingerly and looked at his fingers after breaking his bat during a single.

Smoltz dislocated his right pinkie on May 14 tagging Washington's Austin Kearns, and was been brilliant in his next two starts - going 2-0 with 14 scoreless innings.

The 40-year-old Smoltz wasn't nearly as sharp before exiting Tuesday night, but was still effective. He threw 40 of his 58 pitches for strikes, giving up eight hits and three runs. He struck out five. After Smoltz left the 3-3 game, the Brewers took the lead for good in the sixth.

Hardy singled in the go-ahead run for his 44th RBI off reliever Peter Moylan (1-1). Hardy scored himself from third later in the inning when prized prospect Ryan Braun stole second and catcher Brian McCann's throw sailed into the outfield to make it 5-3.

The Braves got one back in the seventh off Scott Thorman's sacrifice fly, but Derrick Turnbow pitched the eighth and Francisco Cordero converted his 18th consecutive save chance - but it wasn't easy. Cordero struck out Thorman and Matt Diaz swinging with runners on first and third to end it. The Brewers waited until Monday to confirm Sheets (5-3) would even make this start after leaving his previous appearance with a blister on his right middle finger. The Brewers had been treating it with a balm used for rodeo riders in an effort to callous the area, but Sheets relied heavily on his fastball in the first inning and the Braves keyed on it.

Kelly Johnson led off with a single and Willie Harris hit his first homer of the season into the right field bar. Edgar Renteria doubled to snap a skid of eight straight at bats without a hit, his longest this year, and was driven in on a single by Andruw Jones to put Atlanta ahead 3-0.