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Dodgers' Smith, Desert Dogs stay hot in AFL

MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Will Smith set the tone early Wednesday, validating why he's the Los Angeles Dodgers' No. 8 prospect.

His three-run shot in the first inning helped the Glendale Desert Dogs stretch their late-season winning streak to six games and beat the Salt River Rafters, 5-4, to stay in the Arizona Fall League playoff picture.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Will Smith set the tone early Wednesday, validating why he's the Los Angeles Dodgers' No. 8 prospect.

His three-run shot in the first inning helped the Glendale Desert Dogs stretch their late-season winning streak to six games and beat the Salt River Rafters, 5-4, to stay in the Arizona Fall League playoff picture.

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"It definitely gives me confidence that I can compete at this level, and hopefully keep it rolling into Spring Training," Smith said.

Though out-hit, 12 to 8, allowing nine in just the first four innings, the long ball was key for the Desert Dogs' offense, as they showed they still have some fight in them with two clutch home runs, including Smith's.

"It was nice to answer back after they scored a run first," Smith said. "Just get a nice little lead, and then [we] had [Mitch] Keller on the mound."

Though he hit just his second home run of the Fall League season, Smith went into the game with a .362 batting average and now has 16 RBIs on the year.

Video: Dodgers prospect Smith on improving as a catcher

Having fought injury for part of his 2017 season with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, the backstop said it felt good both as a prospect and developing player to have a solid season.

After grabbing an early lead, Glendale allowed hits early and often, including three straight singles that loaded the bases with no outs to start the top of the second inning.

Keller, the Pirates' No. 2 prospect and No. 18 overall, did not break, as he was able to pitch out of the jam. He allowed just one run that inning before getting a double play to end the frame.

Video: Keller on his approach on the mound in Fall League

"[He] didn't have as great stuff as he usually does, but was able to keep them from scoring too much," Smith said.

With a 15-14 record, Glendale is just a game and a half back from Peoria for a Western division title and a spot in the league's championship game on Saturday.

If Peoria were to lose its final two games, including on Wednesday night in Scottsdale, the Desert Dogs would have a shot at matching 16-14 records atop the division after the final regular-season game on Thursday.

For a team that looked completely out of the running six games ago, with a 9-14 record, it seems like anything is still possible with this red-hot squad.

Asked what the team needs to do to keep hopes alive, Smith responded with a simple goal.

"Just keep pitching, keep battling."

Eric Newman is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication