Smith's first homer a walk-off shot for LA

June 2nd, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Will Smith’s first stint as a Major Leaguer may not last long, but four games in, he’s already left his mark with the Dodgers.

Smith’s ninth-inning solo home run off Hector Neris -- Smith’s first homer as a Major Leaguer -- gave Los Angeles a 4-3 win over the Phillies at a sold-out Dodger Stadium, a nice rebound from a blown two-run lead in the eighth. It was the team’s third walk-off victory of the season, and 40th win overall.

“That’s going to be a memorable homer for Will,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Man, you know, the first one is always a good one and memorable, but at home, packed house, a walk-off ... that was fun. That was a lot of fun.”

Smith, currently on the 25-man roster to fill in for an injured Austin Barnes, has some pop, having hit 43 home runs across four Minor League seasons. A walk-off, though, was a first for him at any level.

“That was awesome,” said Smith. “I mean, first walk-off I’ve ever had, first home run in the big leagues, couldn’t have asked for a bigger stage and a bigger moment. I’ll remember that forever.”

The home run came on a 3-2 splitter from Neris after Smith had fallen behind in the count, 1-2. Neris acknowledged that Smith got the better of him, despite the pitcher hitting his spot.

“I did my job and he did his job, you know?” said Neris. “I used my pitch and he hit it. It was a great pitch and he got it. Great contact.”

Although he wasn’t part of the decision, once again played a big part in setting the Dodgers up to win, delivering seven innings of one-run ball while striking out six. He has gone at least six innings in each of his first nine starts this year, and the Dodgers have won every one of those games.

In addition to getting the job done at the plate, Smith contributed by calling a solid game for his pitcher. It was his first time catching Kershaw in the big leagues, though he had previously caught some of the left-hander’s rehab appearances.

“I think Will just kind of oozes professionalism,” said Kershaw. “It just seems like he’s been here a long time. Super calm, super confident. Did a great job today with me behind the plate.

“For me, I didn’t have any worries coming into it today, and Will’s very gifted back there and cares about the game-calling situation. Barnesy did a great job helping him out as well as [Russell Martin], just telling him things I like to do, strengths, weaknesses. But really, he knew what to do, and we were on a great page the whole day.”

“I thought they were really synced up,” Roberts said of the Kershaw-Smith tandem. “I thought this, from recent memory, the best I’ve seen Clayton throw, and I think that his entire mix was there.”

How long Smith stays with the team depends on when Barnes returns from his left groin strain, which landed him on the injured list on May 27. That could be as soon as Thursday, when Barnes is eligible to return. Smith isn’t necessarily trying to force his way onto the roster full-time just yet.

“I’m just coming every day and giving my best effort,” said Smith. “The rest will just take care of itself.”

As for the inevitable “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” jokes that come with a guy named Will Smith -- who uses the show’s theme song as his walk-up music -- doing this against Philly … well, he knows to expect them, anyway.

“I mean, I get ‘em all the time,” said Smith with a laugh. “I’m kind of asking for it with my walk-up.”