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Smith flirts with perfecto as Marlins snap skid

@JoeFrisaro
July 24, 2019

CHICAGO -- A decade after Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith made his own run at the feat at Guaranteed Rate Field. On Tuesday night, Smith flirted with a perfecto and a no-hitter, until those achievements were broken up in the sixth inning. Still, Smith turned in one

CHICAGO -- A decade after Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith made his own run at the feat at Guaranteed Rate Field.

On Tuesday night, Smith flirted with a perfecto and a no-hitter, until those achievements were broken up in the sixth inning. Still, Smith turned in one of his finest big league performances in the Marlins’ 5-1 victory over the White Sox.

Box score

Smith retired the first 17 he faced before Adam Engel drew a two-out walk. Two batters later, Smith surrendered his first hit on Jon Jay’s RBI single to right.

“I definitely was thinking about the no-hitter and perfect game the entire time,” Smith said. “But you kind of try to put it out of your mind, but it's kind of hard to.”

Smith finished with seven innings, allowing one run on two hits with nine strikeouts and two walks. His effort helped snap Miami's four-game skid.

“You kind of watch it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Smith not allowing a baserunner until two outs in the sixth. “You're not going to think about it too much until after the sixth. The one thing we did know is that his pitch count was at a pretty good spot, so he's in an area where he's going to have pitches left. That's always your concern as a manager as a guy gets there.”

The gem came on the 10th anniversary of former White Sox lefty Buehrle’s perfect game against the Rays in the same ballpark.

For Smith, the outing is another reminder of his ability to compete at the highest level, as he improved to 6-4 and lowered his ERA to 3.30 in 2019.

The Marlins also have fielded calls from clubs regarding Smith as a possible trade candidate. In his second big league season, he has four more seasons under club control after this year.

“Obviously, he's a guy who has got great stuff,” Mattingly said. “He's pitched good for us. Anything other than that, you might want to talk to the GM.”

As Smith breezed through the White Sox lineup, Miami broke through with a four-run fourth inning against Dylan Covey, with Curtis Granderson's two-run homer the big blast. Neil Walker added a run-scoring single, and Starlin Castro delivered an RBI double. Harold Ramirez's home run in the fifth made it 5-0.

Along with being dominant, Smith was remarkably efficient. Through five innings, he was at 56 pitches (36 strikes).

Smith made a statement in the fifth, catching Yoan Moncada, AJ Reed and Welington Castillo looking.

“It just shows how deceptive his fastball is, and how it can get up on guys, even if you throw a right-hand-heavy lineup against him,” Granderson said of Smith. “He battled. He never backs down. He's always looking for the ball, whenever it's a fifth day, as long as he's healthy.”

The sixth inning, however, went anything but smoothly for Smith. The left-hander did start off with two consecutive strikeouts, but he issued consecutive walks to Engel and Leury Garcia before Jay broke up the no-hit bid with an RBI single to right.

Smith walked Engel after he missed with a 3-1 fastball.

“It was a 3-1 count, two outs,” Smith said. “I was like, 'Alright, I'm going to throw a fastball here. I'm going to try to throw it as hard as I can, and throw it in the zone, and whatever happens, happens.' But unfortunately, I didn't get it in the zone.”

Smith needed 28 pitches to get out of the sixth, running his count for the game up to 84. The lefty finished with 93 pitches, with 10 swinging strikes and 21 called. Granderson helped Smith out in the seventh, making a running catch at the wall to take an extra-base hit away from Ryan Goins to end the frame.

He was not really throwing the ball in the middle of the plate,” Goins said. “Changing speeds effectively, in, out. He did a great job. Got to tip your cap sometime. I think he made more pitches then we put good swings. So hats off to him today."

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