The presence of left-hander David Price on the mound last night for the Red Sox drove Dwight Smith Jr. to the bench. Or maybe it was a slump that’s gotten control of him.
More likely a combination of the two.
Right-handers Rick Porcello and Andrew Cashner start the last two games of the series and Smith could get back in the lineup if manager Brandon Hyde is in platoon mode.
Hyde has other options, with the roster including switch-hitters Anthony Santander and Stevie Wilkerson. Chris Davis sat last night but could return to first base tonight and Sunday, pushing Trey Mancini back into right field.
Smith has accumulated 217 plate appearances against right-handers and only 91 versus lefties, and he’s more easily removed from the lineup while hitless in his last 30 at-bats - the longest active streak in the American League and longest of his career.
Ten of Smith’s 11 home runs were hit through May. He drove in 35 of his 44 runs.
Smith has gone 9-for-58 since sustaining a concussion on June 6 in Arlington, Texas. He fought the wall and the wall won. But there already were signs of cooling with one hit in 24 at-bats before a 3-for-4 night in Texas.
He went 0-for-5 in the next game and was 0-for-2 with a walk prior to the collision.
In 75 games, Smith is slashing .230/.282/.410 and trying to hold onto his roster spot. He has a minor league option and is trying to play through, as Hyde called them, some “aches and pains.”
Nothing related to the concussion, however.
“We’re continuing to have conversations with Smitty,” Hyde said yesterday. “I try to check in making sure he’s in a good place mentally. He had a really big game in Texas before that concussion and he just hasn’t gotten it going since then and he’s struggling.
“I asked him has he been through this before and he has and bounced out of it. He told me in Double-A one year he had a rough prolonged stretch, so we just talked about mental, physical things to try to get out of it.”
Pressing at the plate only makes it worse.
“I just see a guy who’s trying to get a hit every time up instead of just working his at-bat, taking the at-bat and trying to win pitch to pitch,” Hyde said. “They’re making adjustments with him. He didn’t have a very long track record in the major leagues. He’s now had a full first half where he swung the bat really well and did some damage, and now pitchers are pitching him a little bit differently and now it’s his turn to make the adjustment back.
“We talked about that. About not coming out of his approach, not trying to do too much and just not pressing. That’s what I see with Smitty is a guy who’s pressing a little bit and I think we’re a flutter over the shortstop’s head away from getting it back on track.”
Just as a dribbler over first base cured Mancini, who homered twice the following game and singled last night.
A weak double Tuesday that, as Hyde put it, “kind of loosened him up and let the shoulders relax a little bit.”
Smith is 1-for-2 with a home run and three RBIs against Porcello, the damage coming in 2018 with the Blue Jays. He’s walked twice and struck out in three plate appearances this season.
Mancini is 4-for-9 with two doubles. Davis is 11-for-52 (.212) with a double, four home runs and 16 strikeouts.
Davis’ last home run off Porcello came in 2017. He hit two in 2013 and one in 2012.
Broxton hit a three-run homer, singled and walk after being 10-for-74 and 3-for-31. Martin was 0-for-24 before singling in his final at-bat Wednesday and he had a triple and single last night. He also made a sensational leaping catch at shortstop to rob Xander Bogaerts.
Martin rounded the bases in the second inning in 15.01 seconds, the fourth-fastest home-to-home in the majors this season and fastest from an Orioles player since Statcast began tracking.
“You try not to miss him running because he’s just blazing fast. That was awesome for him,” said John Means.
“That kid is just so athletic and so fast and he’s just a freak athlete and seeing him play defense is something special.”
The bat might be heating up from adjustments made through work with hitting coach Don Long and assistant Howie Clark.
“I’m a little more spread out, hands lower, but other than that, approach is still the same,” he said. “That’s baseball. You’ve just got to keep working every day.”
Santander got the Orioles rolling with a three-run homer off Price in the first.
“I was looking for a good pitch,” he said via translator Ramón Alarcón. “It was a well-located pitch and thankfully I was able to make really good, solid, hard contact.”