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Smith reflects on ongoing scoreless streak

Right-hander entered Friday with 20 scoreless appearances to start career
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- Mariners reliever Carson Smith is working on the third-longest stretch of games in Major League history without allowing a run to start a career, a fact that couldn't be hidden from him too long when he returned to his home state this week to pitch against the Rangers and Astros.

The hard-throwing right-hander made his 20th straight appearance without surrendering a run when he shut down Houston in the eighth inning in Thursday's 3-2 loss. The MLB record is 29 scoreless appearances by the A's Brad Ziegler in 2008 and only Matt Smith (22 games with the Yankees and Phillies in '06) has more than 20.

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HOUSTON -- Mariners reliever Carson Smith is working on the third-longest stretch of games in Major League history without allowing a run to start a career, a fact that couldn't be hidden from him too long when he returned to his home state this week to pitch against the Rangers and Astros.

The hard-throwing right-hander made his 20th straight appearance without surrendering a run when he shut down Houston in the eighth inning in Thursday's 3-2 loss. The MLB record is 29 scoreless appearances by the A's Brad Ziegler in 2008 and only Matt Smith (22 games with the Yankees and Phillies in '06) has more than 20.

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Smith also surpassed Mark Lowe's club record for most scoreless innings to start a career at 18 1/3 on Thursday. He'd inched within an out of that mark in his previous outing Monday against the Rangers in Arlington with family members in attendance from nearby Dallas, where he grew up.

After the game, the group gathered to talk with him in the tunnel outside the visiting clubhouse at Globe Life Stadium.

"I wasn't too aware, to be honest, until my grandma said, 'I wish you'd have stayed in there to get those last couple outs,'" Smith recalled Friday with a smile. "I said, 'What do you mean?' And then she started to speak of the streak and my grandfather quickly made her stop. She's a big fan and he's a big baseball guy as well. He said, 'No, you don't talk about that. That's something you don't mention. We'll leave it at that.' But at that point I knew I was getting close."

Now Smith owns Mariners record for both scoreless innings and appearances to open a career. Since his callup last September, he's given up just five hits with six walks and 21 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings for an 0.60 WHIP and an opponents batting average of .083 with .279 OPS.

Those are pretty skinny numbers and manager Lloyd McClendon has used him in some high-leverage situations. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols of the Angels are both 0-for-3 against him in key at-bats. McClendon brought him in to face defending AL batting champ Jose Altuve and the first three hitters in Houston's order in the eighth inning of a tie game on Thursday and he set them down in order.

"I chose the eighth with him because that was the toughest part of the lineup," McClendon said. "And he went through it pretty good. Had it been the ninth with those three guys up, he'd have been in there because [Fernando] Rodney wasn't available."

The 25-year-old hasn't been intimidated by any of it.

"It's cool. Growing up, you watch some of these guys on TV," Smith said. "Like Pujols, he's been around longer than I've been in professional baseball. It's quite the experience. But at the same time, I just try to go out there and do my job and not try to pump it up too much. Respect the hitter, but at the same time, know you're capable of getting them out."

McClendon is trying to be careful not to overuse the youngster, however, as he has a unique delivery that puts a lot of stress on the arm.

"I'm not going to baby him as far as the situation is concerned. But as far as running him out there for two and three innings, that just doesn't make sense," McClendon said. "He's a power arm. You envision this guy as he matures as a late-inning guy or closer. To think he's going to pitch middle relief with his kind of arm angle, that's not going to happen and it would be foolish to do that and run the risk of injury. He's a one-inning guy."

And a very good one so far.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.

 

Seattle Mariners, Carson Smith