CINCINNATI -- Caleb Smith has been one of the Marlins' most pleasant surprises this season, and he continued his dominant stretch against the Reds on Saturday.The left-hander fired 5 2/3 innings, as the Marlins evened their series with the Reds in a 6-0 win at Great American Ball Park.Smith quickly
CINCINNATI -- Caleb Smith has been one of the Marlins' most pleasant surprises this season, and he continued his dominant stretch against the Reds on Saturday.
The left-hander fired 5 2/3 innings, as the Marlins evened their series with the Reds in a 6-0 win at Great American Ball Park.
Smith quickly mowed through the Reds' order with seven strikeouts, and he avoided any big innings with a pair of key double plays. He attacked with his fastball, and although he only threw 10 of 21 first-pitch strikes, he stayed ahead in most counts and only walked one batter.
"I just really pounded fastballs in," Smith said. "That opened up everything else for me. I mixed pitches and really just pounded fastballs in. ... I'm just throwing strikes, throwing in the strike zone, trying to let them put the ball in play and let my defense work."
Smith has been nearly untouchable in his last three starts with two runs on seven hits over 18 2/3 innings. Perhaps more impressively, he has 26 strikeouts to only two walks. That was a crucial turnaround from the beginning of the season, when he issued 15 free passes in his first 15 innings
"Obviously, he's a guy that's throwing the ball well," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He was OK in Spring [Training], but we thought his stuff was good, and we thought he deserved an opportunity to kind of see what he could do. It was kind of his time. ... He had proved himself at Triple-A.
"He was a guy we felt like could compete here. He's a little older guy. He's a little more developed from the standpoint of being around longer. This is his opportunity to find out what he is. Is he a starter? Is he a reliever? What is he? Right now, he's a starter."
With Smith's dominance and the Marlins' bullpen putting up another strong performance, not much offense was needed.
Starlin Castro went deep in the first inning to give Smith an immediate two-run lead, and Justin Bour added a solo shot in the sixth. The Marlins put the game out of reach with a three-run eighth on Castro's RBI double and Brian Anderson's two-run single.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mr. 100 at last: Castro gave the Marlins their first lead since Tuesday with his two-run first-inning homer to left-center. Not only was it his first home run with the Marlins this season, it was also the 100th of his career and came in the same park where he hit his first career dinger. Castro was homerless in his previous 145 plate appearances, and his teammates gave him the silent treatment when he got back to the dugout.
"I've been squaring the ball pretty good," Castro said. "I think I hit a ball harder than the one I hit today. I think it's good. I don't try to put pressure on myself. A lot of guys in here are like, 'When are you gonna hit a homer? When's the 100th homer? Come on, let's go.' I said, 'Easy, they're going to come.' I don't want to put pressure on myself. Finally that day is today, and I feel really happy." More >
Steckenrider to the rescue: Smith nearly completed a clean six innings, but his stuff began to fade a bit as he approached 100 pitches. With a runner on first and two down, he was able to coax a slow grounder from Joey Votto, but Castro bobbled the ball, which left everyone safe. Mattingly opted to remove Smith at 98 pitches, and Drew Steckenrider was able to get out of the jam and keep Smith's outing scoreless. The right-hander worked Eugenio Suarez to a 2-2 count and got a lazy popup on a slider on the outer edge of the plate.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bour gave the Marlins a welcomed cushion in the sixth inning with an absolute laser of a line-drive home run. The ball was hit very low -- only at a 17-degree launch angle -- but easily cleared the wall because it was crushed at 111.2 mph, according to Statcast™. Just eight home runs have cleared the fence at a 17-degree launch angle or lower this season, but Bour knew it was gone off the bat as he admired it from the batter's box.
"He's one of those guys that hits a ball and it stays hit," Mattingly said. "He backspins the ball to the middle of the field, left-center, so he's definitely got carry. I wasn't quite sure that was going to be high enough when he hit it, but it just kept going."
The Marlins moved catcher J.T. Realmuto up to the leadoff spot for the fifth time this season, since he has been one of their hottest hitters. However, his career-best 12-game hitting streak came to an end as he went 0-for-3 with a hit by pitch. More >
The Marlins will turn to Dan Straily in their series finale against Brandon Finnegan and the Reds at 4:10 p.m. ET on Sunday. Straily has faced his former club once since being dealt to Miami two winters ago, holding Cincinnati to two runs over six innings last July. The right-hander will be making his second start of the season after giving up four runs in four innings to the Phillies on Monday.
Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.