A matchup anticipated as much for its quirkiness as its potential for baseball theater materialized late Friday night when Dodgers catcher Will Smith stepped to the plate against Giants closer Will Smith in the ninth inning with two outs and the potential tying run on first base.
The San Francisco left-hander fell behind the Dodgers rookie with three balls. A called strike and a foul ball produced a full count. Will Smith the batter then struck out to end a 5-4 Giants win, as Will Smith the pitcher earned his 32nd save.
“It was weird to hear your name,” the reliever told Giants reporters. “It was a little weird hearing him come up to hit. At the end of the day, we just have the same name.
“I’m sure we’ll cross paths throughout our careers a couple more times, so we’ll see who wins the Will Smith battle at the end. It was nice to win the first one.”
The game-ending showdown was believed to be the first time since May 11, 1999, a pitcher faced a batter with the same name. That day in Coors Field, two pitchers named Bobby Jones squared off for the Mets and for the Rockies.
Their four plate appearances against each other produced two groundouts, a walk and a strikeout. Colorado won, 8-5.
Max Muncy, out since Aug. 29 because of a right wrist fracture, an injury the infielder suffered when he was hit by a 95-mph fastball, began hitting live pitching in the cage and extended his throwing program from 60 to 90 feet Saturday.
Muncy, who is batting .253 with 33 homers and 87 RBIs, is expected to hit on the field early next week and return to the lineup Friday in New York.
The outlook for outfielder Alex Verdugo, who aggravated a back injury in his first and only game for rookie-league Ogden (Utah) last week, is more bleak.
Verdugo recovered from the right oblique strain that sent him to the injured list Aug. 6, but he returned to Arizona after injuring his back and has been able to take only dry swings. With three weeks and 18 games left in the season, Verdugo’s postseason readiness appears in doubt.
“As far the progression, we’re kind of stagnant right now,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I do feel like there’s enough time for him to return, but the calendar is not stopping. I don’t see him active on this next trip, so you do the math. We just have to get Alex back to health, and right now, we’re just not there.”
Dumb and dumber
The second three-homer game of A.J. Pollock’s career Friday night featured three of the outfielder’s 12 hardest-hit balls of the season, a trio of solo shots that traveled, in order, 429 feet, 425 feet and 420 feet.
“I think I just tried to dumb it down a little bit, get good pitches to hit,” said Pollock, who homered three times for the Diamondbacks in an April 30, 2018, home game against the Dodgers. “I’m just trying to simplify my game a little bit. Get a pitch to hit. That’s about it.”
Roberts did not see Clayton Kershaw viciously kick a hard plastic cooler in the dugout after the left-hander was pulled Friday night following his shaky four-inning, three-run, seven-hit, 99-pitch start, “but I heard about it,” he said.
“Obviously, he’s emotional, and he wanted to pitch better,” Robert said. “He was frustrated and took it out on the cooler. I talked to him today, and his foot is fine, so that’s a good thing.”
What about the cooler?
“The cooler,” Roberts said, “is still on the IL.”
Ross Stripling will start Wednesday night’s game in Baltimore. . . . Julio Urias is scheduled to throw four innings and about 60 pitches in Sunday’s start against the Giants. . . . Friday night’s loss was the third in a row for Kershaw, his first such streak since June 17-27, 2015.