DETROIT -- James McCann was Drew Smyly's catcher at the University of Arkansas. They were Tigers second-round Draft picks, one year apart, and Spring Training teammates when Smyly made Detroit's Opening Day rotation in 2012.After two meetings as opponents, and two tiebreaking home runs, McCann is becoming Smyly's nemesis.• Cast
DETROIT -- James McCann was Drew Smyly's catcher at the University of Arkansas. They were Tigers second-round Draft picks, one year apart, and Spring Training teammates when Smyly made Detroit's Opening Day rotation in 2012.
After two meetings as opponents, and two tiebreaking home runs, McCann is becoming Smyly's nemesis.
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"I won't remind him about it, no," McCann said after his two-run homer Saturday put the Tigers on top for good in an eventual 5-4 win over the Rays. "I'm just glad I could do some damage today."
McCann's last two Major League home runs have come off Smyly. He went homerless after his go-ahead solo shot off him Sept. 7 at Comerica Park. The way his 2016 season had started, he was searching for hits of any type.
McCann was 7-for-55 with no extra-base hits entering Saturday. He entered the series 4-for-36 since his return from the disabled list (sprained right ankle), prompting extra hitting work with coach Wally Joyner on Friday afternoon.
Considering McCann puts together scouting reports on how to approach opposing hitters each series, plus his catching duties, it's a heavy schedule. But McCann wanted to get back to his old form.
"It's very satisfying to get the result," he said. "Even more satisfying was, you look at last night, I had one hit, but all four at-bats were still positive in my mind as to what I'm trying to do -- hitting the ball on the barrel, making hard contact and having quality at-bats. The process is important. Results will follow. I'm a big believer in that, and that's what I've been trying to do, is to just get that process right."
The first result came Friday night with a line-drive RBI single pulled off Rays reliever Ryan Webb. On Saturday, the results showed up on both sides.
Both rookie starter Michael Fulmer and manager Brad Ausmus credited McCann for Fulmer's ability to mix pitches, trusting Fulmer's changeup against an aggressive Rays lineup that has been belting home runs.
"We were on the same page all game long," Fulmer said. "And when we weren't, he came to the mound and told me his reasoning behind what pitch to throw at that time. I trust him with everything I got."
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Offensively, McCann got a reward his second time up Saturday with a bloop single. The big hit came two innings later as Cameron Maybin loomed on first base as the go-ahead run.
Maybin, who had stolen a base in each of his previous four games, threatened to run but stayed put as Smyly fell behind with a 3-0 count.
"Me and Mac talked about that," Maybin said. "If you get a good pitch to hit, be ready to hit. I'm not always over there thinking run. Sometimes I'm over there with a lead just to make them aware that I'm on base. Mac did a great job today of taking advantage of some good pitches to hit."
Said McCann: "I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. [With a] 3-1 [count], go-ahead runner on first base, he didn't want to walk me. I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate that I could do some damage with."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.