True enough. Taschner yielded a run in his first 2007 outing and pitched shutout ball in 13 of his next 14 appearances. He then allowed runs in five of his next seven games as his ERA soared from 3.48 to 6.00. The left-hander's current streak of 3 2/3 scoreless innings follows a six-game slump in which he recorded a 19.64 ERA.
That's why he needed Monday's outing.
"With the way I've pitched lately, I looked at it as a golden opportunity," Taschner said. "I've been struggling with command, I've been struggling with velocity, I've been struggling with my breaking ball."
Taschner learned that both his mechanics and his approach needed tweaking.
"A lot of times, it's hard to make that adjustment if you're going out for only a third or two-thirds of an inning," he said. "I got a really good feel for what I need to feel. You don't need to go in guns blazing every time out."
Taschner appreciated manager Bruce Bochy's confidence in him, particularly in light of his recent ineffectiveness.
"He very well could have sent me to [Triple-A] Fresno," Taschner said. "But instead of bailing on me, he gave me an opportunity."
A vote for Smoltz:
Ryan Klesko had the privilege of playing behind Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz through much of the 1990s with Atlanta. Although the excellence of all three is undeniable, Klesko said that Smoltz is separate among equals.
"If you look at his playoff experience, which guy would I want pitching in a big game for me if I was the manager or on his team? It'd be him, for sure," Klesko said.
The numbers back up Klesko's assertion. Smoltz is 7-0 with a 2.52 ERA in Division Series competition, 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA in League Championship Series games and 2-2 with a 2.47 ERA in the World Series. Maddux (5-3, 3.47) and Glavine (4-3, 4.61) haven't been as good in the NLDS, and they've also fallen short of Smoltz in NLCS action (Maddux: 4-8, 3.80; Glavine: 6-10, 3.22). Both actually have lower World Series ERAs (Maddux -- 2.09, Glavine -- 2.16).
Klesko observed that although Smoltz has relied increasingly on offspeed pitches, the right-hander still can reach 95 mph with his fastball.
"He's still a competitor and probably getting smarter," said Klesko, who struck out twice and singled off Smoltz on Monday night.
Right-hander Russ Ortiz pitched four innings on Monday during an injury rehabilitation start in Fresno's 4-0 victory over Colorado Springs. Ortiz, who works out with the Giants between starts, said that he'll likely throw 60 pitches on Saturday against Lake Elsinore. ... Outfield prospect Eddy Martinez-Estevez, who has struggled this season with Double-A Connecticut (.239), recently strained a hamstring and reported this week to the Giants' rookie-level team in Arizona on a rehab assignment. ... Fresno pitching coach Mike Caldwell has been named pitching coach for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.
Left-hander Noah Lowry will make his 100th Major League appearance on Wednesday as the Giants continue their series against the Braves at AT&T Park. Left-hander Chuck James will counter for Atlanta in a 7:15 p.m. PT contest.