“We wouldn’t be talking about any kind of pennant race without Joe Smith -- he’s anchored our bullpen,” Scioscia said after 8-4 and 7-5 wins over the White Sox moved the Angels (47-35) to within 3 1/2 games of the first-place
"He has the ability to get ground balls, he throws strikes, and he's having a terrific season for us. He's got the makeup to pitch the ninth inning, and he's doing a good job of it."
Smith replaced newly acquired left-hander
The low-stress inning positioned Smith to return for the nightcap, and he needed only nine pitches to retire the side in order and become the first Angels pitcher to save both games of a doubleheader since Troy Percival against the
"It's not really that bad -- if you can keep your pitch count down, that usually helps," said Smith, who said he once pitched in both games of a doubleheader with Cleveland. "I did it before, and after throwing four pitches in first game, I knew I could do it again."
Smith, 30, is in his seventh big-league season and first with the Angels after signing a three-year, $15.75-million contract last winter. But this is the first time he’s had a chance to close, the struggles of
"I love pitching the ninth," Smith said. "I've never had the opportunity to close at the big-league level. But if you ask any reliever if you want the ball in the ninth, that's what it's all about."
Smith rarely tops 90 mph with his fastball, but his pitches dip and dart all around the strike zone, making it difficult for hitters to make solid contact. He is 2-0 with a 2.78 earned run average and nine saves in 37 appearances, striking out 40, walking eight and allowing three homers in 35 2/3 innings.