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Steady Smith sets up Castro's heroics in 10th

@JoeFrisaro
April 26, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Caleb Smith has made a statement in his recovery from left lat surgery last July. The 27-year-old has been the Marlins’ most consistent performer all season, and it was more of the same on Thursday night. And after Smith held the Phillies in check, Starlin Castro connected on

PHILADELPHIA -- Caleb Smith has made a statement in his recovery from left lat surgery last July. The 27-year-old has been the Marlins’ most consistent performer all season, and it was more of the same on Thursday night.

And after Smith held the Phillies in check, Starlin Castro connected on a two-out, two-run home run in the 10th inning that propelled the Marlins to a 3-1 win in the four-game series opener at Citizens Bank Park.

“Smitty did a great job,” Castro said. “I think the whole lineup was having good at-bats. We had people on base almost every inning. Finally, in the 10th inning, we scored two runs.”

Castro’s heroics off Hector Neris gave the Marlins their first lead of the game. Early on, the night belonged to Smith.

Smith matched his season high with eight strikeouts, which he's now done three times in five starts. The left-hander was two shy of his career best, 10, on April 22, 2018, at Milwaukee.

“Like I said earlier in Spring Training, you always have those doubts whenever you're injured,” Smith said. “'Am I going to come back the same? How's it going to hold up?' Fortunately, for me, I've been able to produce the way I have.”

Against the Phillies, in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, Smith continued to elevate his game against a formidable lineup.

Smith lowered his ERA to 2.17, and logged a season-high 102 pitches.

From the outset, he was on the attack, and finished with 78 strikes. Even being around the plate as often as he was, the southpaw missed bats, inducing 19 swinging strikes, and another 16 called.

“I thought as the game went on, his changeup got better, his breaking ball got better,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He did a nice job of hanging in. I thought his stuff got better as the night went on.”

The lone run Smith allowed came via the long ball, on Sean Rodriguez’s two-out, opposite-field home run in the second inning.

“We can perform better than we are at the plate,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “But Caleb Smith threw a great game. He’s been good all season for the Marlins. He’s been their best pitcher. He pitched really well tonight."

The lone run of support Smith got came in the third inning. Lewis Brinson was hit by an Aaron Nola pitch to open the inning and scored on Martin Prado’s RBI single.

In the top of the ninth inning, the Marlins had a chance to claim the lead on Isaac Galloway’s two-out single to left, but Nick Williams threw out Miguel Rojas at the plate.

Smith’s resolve also was tested in the sixth when Andrew McCutchen led off with a double off the wall in left. With one out and McCutchen on third, Smith retired Bryce Harper on a pop foul to third, and ended the potential threat by getting Rhys Hoskins on a routine fly ball to right. Coming off the mound, Smith let out a bit of emotion, yelling, “Let’s go!”

“That was a big spot,” Smith said. “I knew McCutchen had that leadoff double, and I knew it was going to be tough to get out of that. My thought on Harper was, 'You're going to make weak contact or I'm going to strike you out or walk you.' If I walk him, that puts the double play in effect.”

And if not for a 16-pitch first-inning showdown with J.T. Realmuto, Smith may have been able to go another inning.

The Realmuto at-bat got the crowd going early.

Former batterymates with the Marlins, Smith and Realmuto hooked up in the first inning. After running the count full on five pitches, from the sixth pitch on, the drama began. Realmuto fouled off 10 straight full-count pitches before striking out on the 16th pitch.

“Here's my best stuff, hit it,” Smith said. “That's basically what it was.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.