Dwight Smith Jr. on big game against his former team

TORONTO - Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. calls the trade that sent him from Toronto to the Orioles on March 8 "the best thing that happened to me in my career."

That is because the Orioles have given him a real shot in the majors this year. Over parts of 2017-18, he got a combined 104 plate appearances with Toronto. This season, he has gotten 384 with the Orioles. That number would probably be higher if not for two injuries.

Smith got off to a hot start with the Orioles. Through May 12, the 26-year-old lefty hitter was batting .286/.333/.510 with an OPS of .844. For the season in 99 games, Smith is batting .243/.298/.417 with 16 doubles, three triples, 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a .715 OPS.

In a return to face his former team this week, Smith had a big game last night as the Orioles won 11-4. He went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. Nice to deliver that way at Rogers Centre versus his former teammates.

Smith-HR-Swing-Gray-Toronto-Sidebar.jpg"I just wanted to have quality at-bats, try not to do too much," said Smith. "I was just trying to stay within myself and have good at-bats. It's nice to always come back and play here. I started my career here. To have the game against Toronto, I try not to get too hyped about it. But it is a moment I'll cherish, for sure."

The Orioles acquired Smith during spring training for international bonus signing money. Smith was selected No. 53 overall by the Blue Jays in the 2011 draft and he played over 700 games on the Toronto farm.

Smith's 2019 season got derailed a bit by injuries. He crashed into the outfield wall in Texas in early June and missed two weeks on the concussion injury list. He suffered a left calf strain and went on the IL on July 30 and didn't return to the O's roster until Sept. 1.

"It was frustrating. Injuries did mess up timing for me. But at the end of the day, I've learned a lot this year. Just get healthy and be ready for next year for sure," he said.

Smith's big night last night came after he was not in the original O's lineup. But when Toronto switched pitchers to lefty Thomas Pannone, manager Brandon Hyde expected a bullpen game and a parade of righty relievers. So Smith was inserted batting sixth and playing in left field.

Then he singled in a run during the O's three-run first, hit a solo homer in the fourth and produced an RBI single in the eighth for his 13th multi-RBI game.

"I've had nights like this before where things come up," Smith said. "But I always prepare to start, no matter whether I'm in the lineup or not. Just preparing your mind to do that, you'll be fine regardless of the situation."

Smith is batting .393 (11-for-28) with four multi-hit games over his past eight starts. His father played in the majors - briefly with the Orioles in 1994 - and his career high was 52 in RBIs. Smith topped that by one last night.

And because the O's got some early offense and a strong start from Dylan Bundy, they enjoyed a rare comfortable win, leading 5-1 after four innings, 8-2 after six and 11-2 to the last of the ninth.

"It's relaxing," Smith said. "But up at this level, there is really nothing comfortable. Anybody can make a comeback at any moment, so you can't take anybody lightly."

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