MANCHESTER — Having struggled at the plate over the first three months of the season, Kevin Smith decided to go home during last week’s Eastern League All-Star break to spend some time with friends and family. It was a chance for him to clear his mind and get back to the basics.
The trip back to New York may have been just what Smith needed. In his first four games back from the break, the Toronto Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect hit .400 (6-for-15) with five home runs and seven RBIs, including a two-homer, three-RBI performance against Hartford on July 12.
“I went home and kind of just hung out with my pops and swung in the cage a little bit with him,” Smith said. “We tweaked a few things here and there and I just came back feeling better.”
Smith hit a combined .302 over 129 games split between Class-A Lansing and Advanced-A Dunedin last season, but is hitting .190 in 279 at-bats in his first year in New Hampshire. One thing he hasn’t lost is power. After hitting 25 homers last year he leads the Fisher Cats with 12 and is tied for eighth most in the EL. The average is what he’s concerned about.
“When you’re barrelling up balls you know you’ll have some homers here and there,” he said. “I’m not so much trying to look for the power, but just trying to put good swings on good pitches.”
Though he went 0-for-7 between the Fishers’ last two games against the Portland Sea Dogs, Smith had one at-bat where he saw nine pitches before recording an out in each game. Of those 18 looks, 10 of them were fouled off, which could be seen as an improvement for him.
Smith said back in June that he needed to get his timing down at the plate without feeling rushed and that seeing the ball hit the bat better would be key to him turning his season around.
With a four-game trip to Reading beginning Thursday ,perhaps Smith can keep things moving in the right direction. He’s hit much better in away games this season, owning a .258 average on the road compared with a .105 average in games played at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Whatever the case, Smith will continue to focus on taking things one at-bat at a time.
“I just have to not change anything (that I just fixed),” he said Tuesday. “Just kind of stick with what got you here and trusting your work and preparation before the game. You can’t really get caught up in the highs and lows from day to day. You have to trust what you put into it.”
Sea Dogs 10, Fisher Cats 4
Portland took an 8-0 lead in the fifth inning and cruised to victory Wednesday afternoon at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester.
Luke Tendler’s two-run homer in the first put Portland up 3-0. Tendler had an RBI single in the third, as did Jhon Nunez and Jarren Duran to give the Sea Dogs an 8-0 lead.
Christian Williams’ RBI double in the sixth put New Hampshire on the board and Josh Palacios’ RBI single in the seventh, along with an RBI groundout, made it 8-3. Jeremy Rivera had a two-run single in the ninth for Portland.
Yennsy Diaz (8-7) took the loss, walking six and allowing eight runs, six earned, on four hits in 4 1/3 innings. Dedgar Jimenez (3-4) got the win.
The Fisher Cats are off to Reading to start a four-game weekend series tonight at 7:10.