Smith shines before early exit vs. Twins

April 21st, 2019

BALTIMORE -- has spent the season’s first month emerging as one of the Orioles’ more reliable offensive threats, and he spent Sunday afternoon in the middle of everything. Now he may need some time on the shelf.

The Orioles are hopeful Smith does not require an injured list stint after leaving Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Twins with right quad tightness, shortly following his sixth-inning strikeout against Trevor May. Smith downplayed the severity of the injury after receiving treatment postgame, but he said it’s an issue that he has played through for upwards of a week.

“A close game like that, you never want to come out, but today it was definitely the right thing to do. Don’t want to push it, make things worse,” Smith said. “Honestly, the way I feel right now I could probably play tomorrow.”

Asked to speculate on that possibility, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde characterized it as unlikely. Smith said no MRI is planned, but he’ll be reevaluated Monday by the club’s medical staff, with an eye toward mollifying the leg discomfort that also made him a late scratch last Sunday in Boston. Any further complications would leave Baltimore without its everyday No. 3 hitter, which Smith has turned himself into after being acquired in an under-the-radar trade with Toronto on March 8.

After appearing in 47 games for the Blue Jays from 2017-’18, Smith is hitting .289 with a .839 OPS in 21 contests this season, his first as a Major League starter. He ranks among Baltimore’s leaders so far in hits (24), runs (15), batting average (.289) and doubles (six).

“He brings a professional presence in the box when the game starts, and I just love his at-bats and the way he uses the whole field,” Hyde said. “He’s got kind of some sneaky power. He’s just a really good player.”

Sunday proved one of his more eventful afternoons in an Orioles uniform. Smith provided much of Baltimore’s offense and underwent some defensive adventures in the finale of a three-game set. Smith’s two-run single off winning pitcher was all the Orioles mustered in support of before their ninth-inning rally fell short, and a three-base error by Smith on a sunball helped Minnesota hop out to a 2-0 lead off Bundy in the first. In between, he tumbled toward the left-field line to rob of a potential extra-base hit in the second. Four innings later, Smith left the game after wincing running up the first-base line.

All the on-field action came in stark contrast to Saturday, when the Twins and Orioles combined to hit an MLB-record 17 home runs over the course of their single-admission doubleheader. A day later, the two teams managed just four extra-base hits (all doubles) mostly thanks to the strong work from Gibson and Bundy, who both completed six innings. It marked the longest outing for Bundy this season, and the first game since July 14, 2018, against Texas, that neither team managed to hit a home run at Camden Yards.