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An unexpected hit and win for Giants' Will Smith

@mi_guardado
August 12, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Scooter Gennett launched a ball into McCovey Cove, delivering the 80th splash hit for the Giants since their waterfront ballpark opened in 2000. But he found himself ceding the spotlight to an unexpected offensive hero: closer Will Smith. “You rake, Will,” Gennnett said following the Giants’ wild

SAN FRANCISCO -- Scooter Gennett launched a ball into McCovey Cove, delivering the 80th splash hit for the Giants since their waterfront ballpark opened in 2000. But he found himself ceding the spotlight to an unexpected offensive hero: closer Will Smith.

“You rake, Will,” Gennnett said following the Giants’ wild 9-6 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Oracle Park. “You rake."

Smith’s first career hit -- a two-run single to right field -- highlighted a three-run eighth inning that helped the Giants rally and clinch a 3-1 series victory over the Phillies. Smith capped his night by returning to the mound in the ninth and securing the final three outs for San Francisco, earning his fourth win of the season after he was charged with a tough-luck blown save.

“That was probably the peak of my funness on a baseball field,” Smith said.

Box score

The Giants took a one-run into the eighth after Gennett crushed a tiebreaking home run off Philadelphia reliever Ranger Suarez in the sixth, but the Phillies staged an uprising against lefty Tony Watson after J.T. Realmuto singled and advanced to third on a double by Scott Kingery. Manager Bruce Bochy decided to summon Smith for a five-out save, but the All-Star reliever gave up a game-tying sacrifice fly to Corey Dickerson.

Still, the Giants came back to rally in the bottom half of the inning. Evan Longoria led off with a single and scored on Kevin Pillar’s two-out triple to put San Francisco back ahead, 7-6. Bochy had Sam Coonrod warming in the bullpen and Pablo Sandoval on deck to potentially hit for Smith, but Phillies manager Gabe Kapler wasn’t fooled. He had reliever Nick Pivetta intentionally walk Brandon Crawford to bring up Smith, who had never logged a plate appearance over his seven-year career in the Majors.

“I think they knew I wasn’t going to take out my closer,” Bochy said. “That was a no-brainer.”

Smith hadn’t hit in a game since his days at Gulf Coast Community College, but he ventured into the batting cage prior to Sunday’s game and took three swings off the tee for fun. The mild preparation ended up paying off, as he proceeded to line a 3-1 fastball to the opposite field, driving in two runs and sending the fans at Oracle Park into a frenzy.

Smith couldn’t contain his grin as he ambled down the first-base line, narrowly beating out a throw from right fielder Bryce Harper for his milestone hit.

“If that throw is on line, I’m definitely out, for sure,” Smith said. “I would have made Bochy challenge it, probably. It worked out.”

“It’s almost more exciting than a grand slam,” Gennett said. “A single to right. I’m just glad he was able to get to first base on time.”

Smith also ran the bases for the first time, advancing from first to third on Joey Rickard’s subsequent double. After Mike Yastrzemski flied out to end the inning, Smith jogged back to the dugout to pick up his glove before returning to the mound to pitch the ninth.

Roman Quinn opened the inning with a bunt attempt, but Smith made an impressive barehanded play and threw to first baseman Brandon Belt in time for the out. Smith then worked around a two-out walk to Rhys Hoskins to secure a win for the Giants (59-60), who rebounded from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Nationals to take three out of four from the Phillies, one of the teams they’re chasing in the National League Wild Card race.

Smith was one of three Giants relievers to log his first career plate appearance Sunday, joining Jandel Gustave and Trevor Gott. San Francisco became the first team to have three pitchers make their first career plate appearances in the same game since Sept. 21, 1934.

Seven Giants relievers combined to throw 7 1/3 innings after rookie Conner Menez recorded only five outs in his third career Major League start.

“You know things have gone awry in that game,” Bochy said. “I had three relievers get their first at-bat. Two of them smoked a ball. Smitty’s been wanting to hit. I know he’s been talking about it, and he was excited about getting the chance to hit up there. Of course, that’s huge. You get those insurance runs. That game was entertaining, trying to navigate through it with the ’pen. Guys did a great job of picking each other up.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.