Josh Smith was tasked with venturing into unfamiliar territory, and the journeyman answered the bell.
With a taxed bullpen heading into the ninth inning of Thursday’s game against the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora effectively was forced to turn Smith to lock down the win at Fenway Park. Only Smith and fellow right-hander Heath Hembree were left to pitch, and the latter was dealing with forearm tightness.
Cora didn’t have any kind of rah-rah speech for Smith prior to the final frame. But it’s safe to say the 31-year-old didn’t need one, as he embraced the challenge head-on.
“You’ve got the ninth,” Cora told Smith, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.
“All right, let’s do it,” Smith replied.
It was far from a flawless appearance, but Smith ultimately finished the job and lifted the Red Sox to a four-game series split in the process. For Smith, who’s made two spot starts for Boston this season, Thursday’s outing was emotional.
“I think I’m still shaking,” Smith said after his first career save. “It’s great. It’s a lot of fun.”
Cora joked after the game that Smith will be the Red Sox’s new closer. While Boston likely isn’t eager to thrust Smith back into that spot, the club now knows the veteran righty is capable of filling in when needed.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images