Smith's comeback leads to 1st All-Star Game

Giants closer, perfect this season with 21 saves, missed 2017 after Tommy John surgery

July 1st, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants closer is a perfect 21-for-21 in save opportunities this season, a stretch that has largely removed much of the drama from the ninth inning. It's a luxury manager Bruce Bochy hasn't always enjoyed in the past.

"It's been pretty nice," Bochy said. "I've dealt with [Brian] Wilson, who did a great job, but he made it scary sometimes. [Sergio] Romo could get a little scary. [Santiago] Casilla, especially, he could keep you on the edge of your seat. But Will -- knock on wood, I don't want to jinx him -- I'd say 90 percent of them have been really, really quiet ones. That's a good thing for a manager."

Smith's dominance culminated in his first career All-Star selection Sunday, as he was chosen to be the Giants' lone representative at the 2019 Midsummer Classic at Progressive Park in Cleveland on July 9.

"I don't know if it's sunk in yet," Smith said following the Giants' 10-4 win over the D-backs. "It feels pretty cool right now, just to sit out that year and come back [from Tommy John surgery]. To have this kind of success, I don't know if I ever really thought it'd be this good, but it feels good that your hard work pays off."

Bochy held a pregame meeting to announce the news to the team, and the Giants recognized Smith on the scoreboard once the All-Star rosters were officially made public in the sixth inning.

"I congratulated him like a week ago," left-hander Madison Bumgarner said. "We did do something for him here before the game, too. I don't think it was any surprise to anybody. He deserves to be there as much as anybody."

Acquired from the Brewers in exchange for Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac at the 2016 Trade Deadline, Smith missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he's been one of the most elite relievers in the National League since returning from injury.

The 29-year-old left-hander has recorded a 2.16 ERA with 51 strikeouts and eight walks over 33 1/3 innings this year. His 21 consecutive saves to start the season are the most since Rod Beck converted 28 straight in 1994, according to Stats LLC.

"He's been good for a while," Bochy said. "He's just gotten better as a pitcher, with his command, his pitches. He's got a couple different breaking balls he can throw at you. He can throw 94 [mph] to both sides of the plate. He can elevate. He's got everything."

Smith entered Sunday ranking third in the NL in saves and had held opposing batters to the second-lowest on-base percentage (.218) and fourth-lowest OPS (.494) in the league among relievers. Since taking over the closing role last June, Smith has gone 35-for-38 (92.1 percent) in save opportunities for San Francisco.

"That's why we went out and acquired him," Bochy said. "That's how good we thought he was. He was good for Milwaukee, and he's done a great job here. Now, he [went] on the [IL] with the Tommy John surgery, so he missed a lot of time. I think just getting a little further away has enabled him to get stronger, and that's what he's shown this year."