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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Who's the new 'Yankee Killer'? Might be 'Shooter' Smyly

DETROIT — In Detroit Tigers lore, Frank Lary is known as the “Yankee Killer.”

But he might have some competition for the job, if this keeps up.

Drew Smyly got his first big-league win in Yankee Stadium last year, eleven months before he picked up his first career save — and first save at any level of competition — in Friday’s home opener, going four perfect innings in an 8-3 win.

“Got my first playoff win against the Yankees, too,” Smyly said with a laugh.

“I didn't even realize it until someone told me after the game. I didn’t think you could get a save going four innings. But it’s pretty cool. I’m glad I got it. I got a win and my first save against the Yankees.”

You can indeed be credited with a save, if you finish off a win credited to another pitcher, and pitch effectively for more than three innings.

Boy, did Smyly ever do that.

Starting with Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth, he retired all 12 Yankees batters he faced, striking out five of them.

“That's what I’m excited about. Arkansas just definitely came through today,” said outfielder Torii Hunter, who shares the home state with Smyly. “He pitched his butt off. Like I said when I came in, the game ball goes to Shooter. That's what we call him, Drew Smyly. Pitched his butt off. He had the two-seamer working, the off-speed working, had those guys off-balance. He pitched four innings. You gotta tip your cap to that guy.”

His catcher certainly did, too.

“He threw great. Pretty much if it wasn’t for Prince’s home runs, he was the reason why we won,” said Alex Avila, who hit a home run to go along with Prince Fielder’s two. “His fastball command was great today and really showed why he definitely belonged on this team.”

That might have been a concern after Smyly’s shaky outing on Opening Day in Minnesota, when he walked three of the 10 batters he faced, and gave up hits to three more, yielding two runs.

“You gotta remember, the conditions were tough that day, guys couldn’t feel their breaking ball, the ball was slippery — we don’t make excuses for anybody, but both teams, the shadows were bad. It’s amazing,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

“Justin Morneau said the shadows were brutal, he couldn’t see the ball. Alex, on the other hand, thought the cold played a bigger factor. I mean, no excuses — that’s just the way it was.”

Smyly certainly didn’t want any excuses for his last performance.

He just wanted a chance to get rid of the taste.

“After my last outing in Minnesota, it kind of sticks with you when you can’t find the strike zone. You feel like you let your team down,” Smyly said. “I was real happy how I bounced back today. That’s what you've got to do to stay up here.”

Having gone all the way through the Yankees’ lineup through the end of the eighth, Smyly already knew he was going out for the ninth inning.

It’s an entirely different feeling for someone who’s only been a reliever for nine total outings last year — four of those in the playoffs — and two more to start this year.

“I’ve been a starter my whole life, but I’ll take it. It was fun,” said Smyly, who was not on the roster for last Opening Day, but watched from the stands. “It’s exciting pitching like that, with a five-run lead, ninth inning, 45,000 people cheering. That’s what gets your adrenaline going.”


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