Smith's second career HR feels like first 'real one'

After inside-the-parker in July, righty clears fence, takes first home run trot

September 22nd, 2022

ARLINGTON -- The first and last time hit a home run at Globe Life Field, he was forced to sprint around the bases to produce an inside-the-parker, as his sinking line drive dribbled past A’s center fielder Ramón Laureano during a July 11 win over Oakland.

For Smith's second, the sprint wasn’t needed. He opted for a slight jog instead.

In the Rangers’ 7-2 win over the Angels on Wednesday night, Smith finally launched his first career over-the-wall home run -- a 386-foot shot with 101.9 mph exit velocity -- in the seventh inning to extend Texas’ lead.

The home run was the second-longest Statcast-projected distance of Smith's career, 17 feet behind a 403-foot flyout on July 17 against the Mariners.

“It definitely felt like my first career homer,” Smith said jokingly postgame. “That was fun. I guess I’ve got two [homers], but it feels like I only have one real one. It’s crazy because I know I got it in there, I just haven’t really shown it all that much this year. I’m just trying to really get consistent and just start hitting the ball hard.”

Whether it was Smith’s “real” first home run or not, he received the memento thanks to Rangers pitcher .

“I'm sure he's glad, because I think it meant a lot to him to hit what I guess he would probably call a legitimate home run,” interim manager Tony Beasley said. “They’re all homers, but he put a pretty good swing on the ball. It wasn't something he was trying to do. He just had a good pitch and put a good swing on it, and the home run was the result. It's good to see him be able to have that happen tonight and not try to do it. So hopefully he can forget about it and get back to hitting the ball all over the field tomorrow.”

Since coming to the Rangers at the 2021 Trade Deadline in a deal that sent Joey Gallo to the Yankees, Smith has been billed as a hitter who can use the entire field. So Beasley wasn’t worried by the lack of conventional power after Smith made his debut in May. In fact, it was a sign that Smith was swinging the bat just the way he wanted to. Getting away from that all-fields approach was actually what warranted a quick trip back down to Triple-A Round Rock on Aug. 21, from which Smith returned Sept. 8.

“We’ve got to make sure that we get Josh to be the player that he needs to be, and just [get him] using the whole field,” Beasley said at the time. “When you see a player with his capabilities, as coaches, we’ve got to find a way that makes sure that we get him to be able to produce and play that type of game that he's capable of.”

For all intents and purposes, Smith did just that with Round Rock. And while he doesn’t have much to show for it right now, with a .205 batting average in the big leagues this season, he’s noticing some positive signs.

“When I got sent down, I got pretty hot for a little bit, and then I got back up here and struggled again,” Smith explained. “The past couple of days, I have hit some balls hard, I feel like I'm hitting the ball a little bit harder, so that's good … I feel like I belong, you know. These guys are good. They execute their pitches, but really, I think I have a couple of things I want to work on this offseason that I think can help me with the pitches at the top of the zone.”

The home run wasn’t Smith’s only highlight in Wednesday’s win over the Angels.

A natural shortstop now playing the outfield, Smith raced to make a catch at the left-field wall to rob Matt Duffy of a potential extra-base hit.

“I feel good,” Smith said, noting he’s continuing to learn the position. “I’m really just trying to be athletic. I don't really think when I'm out there, just go catch the ball before it hits the ground.”