BOSTON — On a day when the usual slick-fielding Dominic Smith fumbled a bit on defense, the Mets’ first baseman also fumbled for the right word.
“I’ve been pleased overall with my defense. So obviously it’s very frustrating being known or having kind of a persona or — I don’t even know how to explain it,” Smith said, “and when you get two opportunities to make plays you don’t make them.”
‘Reputation’ is the word Smith was fumbling for and it preceded him into Saturday’s late-afternoon 5-3 loss to the Red Sox. Smith’s troubles began immediately. After Mookie Betts was hit by a pitch to lead off the first, Andrew Benintendi bounced a ball towards Smith.
The lefty made the short-hop stab on the run, but his throw to second sailed into leftfield putting runners at the corner and leading to an unearned run.
“That’s a tough ball. It’s in no-man’s land. If I don’t go get it, it’s probably a base hit,” Smith related. “My only play is at second. Mookie can run so I was trying to get to it quickly and make a strong throw. I did make a strong throw, but it was a little bit up the line. Trying to be too quick.”
In the second inning, Rafael Devers’ smash went off Smith’s glove and through his legs into leftfield for another error that caused no damage. “I got the glove there. It just literally bent my glove backwards and went to the outfield. It was definitely weird,” Smith said. “It was tough to see with the sun and the shadows. We don’t play that many 4 o’clock games. It was a different visual for a lot of us. A lot of the Red Sox hitters who got on base were complaining about how they couldn’t see either.”
Mickey Calloway wasn’t hard on Smith, who has struggled to find an offensive rhythm as he’s bounced between the minors and majors.
“He’s been great at first. He’s made some great picks. He’s smooth over there,” the Mets’ manager said. “The one play, he had to be quick with the throw and kind of threw it off line just a tad with the runner right on top of Rosie [shortstop Amed Rosario]. That was a tough play. The other one, everybody was having trouble seeing the ball off the bat. That ball just got underneath his glove before he even knew it.”
Smith’s rough day followed him into the batter’s box. In the seventh, with the Mets trailing 5-3, knuckleballer Steven Wright walked the first two batters. Smith had a chance to do damage but wound up striking out when it was ruled that a 2-and-2 pitch grazed his bat before landing in the catcher’s glove. Calloway said replays weren’t conclusive so he didn’t appeal.
“I feel that the ball didn’t hit me, that’s why I reacted the way I reacted and didn’t leave the box right away,” Smith said. “They said it did; can’t do anything about it. The pitch [a knuckler] started up. The saying is if it’s high, let it fly; if it’s low let it go. I saw it up and I was getting ready to hit. It stayed up [and in] and I checked my swing at the last second.”
But the ball found his bat on a day it didn’t find his glove.