Major League Baseball

Smith picks up 14th hold, ERA at 0.91

While not nearly as active as he was in May out of Milwaukee’s bullpen, Will Smith’s slider has been making a name for itself around the National League.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound reliever from Newnan has been gaining attention with a pitch he’s only thrown for three years, with players and local media referring to it as “the slider of death.”

Smith, who picked up his 14th hold of the season while pitching a scoreless inning in New York during a 3-1 victory over the Mets on Wednesday, lowered his ERA to 0.91 with 37 strikeouts in a team-high 33 appearances in his first season with Milwaukee after being traded during the offseason from Kansas City.

Only four of 45 batters have managed a hit this season off Smith’s slider for a .089 batting average.

Smith, who backed away from throwing a slider during his years at Northgate High, took a second look at the pitch when he arrived in the Texas League with Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Last year with the Royals, batters were just 4-for-43 against his slider. Of 438 pitches in the major leagues, Smith has yielded six extra-base hits with the pitch.

After earning honors as Milwaukee’s Pitcher of the Month for May, Smith has made five appearances this month while establishing himself primarily as a setup man in the seventh or eighth inning ahead of closer Francisco Rodriguez.

For the season, the imposing left-hander has allowed just three earned runs, two of which came in back-to-back appearances on June 4 and 5 at Minnesota. He’s yet to throw more than an inning and a third in any single appearance.

Among setup men in the National League, Smith is currently among the top-four with Pittsburgh’s Tony Watson (16 holds, 0.90 ERA, 30 IP), Washington’s Tyler Clippard (15 holds, 1.23 ERA, 29.1 IP) and Arizona’s Brad Ziegler (15 holds, 2.62 ERA, 34.1 IP) as the most effective.

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