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‘Go foul. Please’: Behind Will Smith’s ‘torture’ of a ninth inning

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Will Smith wanted to, ahem, will the ball’s direction. He saw it sloping, watched as a 3-1 Giants lead hung precariously inches above the chalk.

Matt Chapman slugged it down the left-field line, and it was either going to be harmless, a 3-2 count with two-on and the lead, or a game-tying double and blown save.

“We had to put some torture there at the end of the game,” was Bruce Bochy’s view.

The closer watched it off the bat and wasn’t going to stay on the mound or dart behind home plate to back up. He had to control the ball’s path somehow.

“Go foul. Please,” Smith recounted, flashing back to his thoughts. “I was walking with it, I was walking down the line.”

It worked. The ball fell inches foul, and Chapman returned to the plate. It was not easy before or after the would-be double, but Smith would survive the scare in the Giants’ 3-2 win over the A’s at Oracle Park on Tuesday.

“You’re not going to be perfect every night,” said Smith, who actually was perfect, in terms of save opportunities, during the first half but has been more grit than glimmering in the second half. “You’re not going to go 1-2-3 every night. Some nights you play the scoreboard. We had a two-run lead, just kind of go from there and dig deep and see what you got.”

It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough. Smith took the ball from Reyes Moronta with a two-run cushion and watched Dustin Garneau and Khris Davis deliver back-to-back singles. He struck out Marcus Semien for the inning’s first out before Chapman’s fateful at-bat, which ended not with a double but with a single to load the bases.

Smith struck out Matt Olson before Mark Canha worked a 3-2 count. The 30-year-old Smith did not panic.

“Knowing you have a two-run lead, you can be perfect or a ball right there,” said Smith, who pitched the latter, walking Canha to narrow the cushion to one.

It was the fourth game in six days that Smith threw. Entering an at-bat with Chad Pinder, he was at 32 pitches. A few batters prior, Sam Coonrod sprinted out to the bullpen mound, quickly getting warmed up for an at-bat or two. He was ready as Pinder stepped up.

Bochy believes in his closer, and Smith said he couldn’t feel the pitches mounting.

“I’ll go as hard as I can for as long as I can,” Smith said. “… You’re just going out there, doing your job. You don’t really think if you’re tired or not.”

He only needed five more pitches, reaching back on the last, a 93-mph fastball, that smacked into Buster Posey’s glove for the final out.

“Smitty showed a lot about what he’s about,” Bochy said. “I mean, his pitches were up there. And that last pitch he let go pretty good and got it by him.”

Smith looked exuberant after his two-RBI single Sunday. He was less animated and looked more tired after this nail-biter.

Informed that Bochy said he would stay away from him Wednesday, though, Smith perked up.

“Is he?”


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