LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Twitter had the fun you’d expect Twitter to have when Will Smith (the Louisville version) homered off Will Smith (the non-Louisville version) in the National League Championship Series on Friday night.
Fox Sports sealed the moment by getting jiggy with bumper music by the real Will Smith.
But after all the memes, GIFs and puns were filed, two things deserved more attention.
The home run pushed Smith and the sagging Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of Smith and the Atlanta Braves 4-2 in the sixth inning. They finished out the 7-3 victory and added a 3-1 Game Six win Saturday in Arlington, Texas. The teams will play for the National League's spot in the World Series at 8:15 p.m. Sunday on WDRB (Fox national).
Maybe the Dodgers will take that juice, change the vibe of the series and advance to the World Series.
Here’s what I will remember: Smith's at bat was the best at-bat I’ve seen the entire Major League Baseball postseason. And I’m not flying solo here.
In a world where the best hitters rush into the batter's box and swing at the first pitch in the same area code as home plate, Will Smith took one, two, three, four, five pitches before he moved the bat off his shoulder. That's the kind of sensible hitting Tony Gwynn or Ted Williams would applaud.
“Big at bat from Will Smith… Big home run for the Dodgers.” - @TheBigHurt_35 breaks down Will Smith’s go-ahead HR through multiple angles thanks to the FOX Sports Samsung Galaxy 5G View app. Changing the game this Fall. #sponsored #GalaxyZFold2 5G @SamsungMobileUS pic.twitter.com/I0kZMozUxr— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 17, 2020
"The Will Smith at-bat was a game changer," Fox analyst Alex Rodriguez said. "The 25-year-old, he acted like 35-year-old veteran. He was so poised."
The Braves' Smith (the left-handed reliever) is not Sandy Koufax or Randy Johnson, but he is a formidable, veteran pitcher of eight big-league seasons. He saved 39 games for San Francisco last season.
Smith, a product of Kentucky Country Day and the University of Louisville, arrived in the big leagues in 2019 and solidified himself as the Dodgers’ top catcher this season. Fox announcer Joe Buck has referred to him as one of the best young catchers in baseball.
"Will Smith’s a very good hitter," former White Sox star and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas said. "He’s been clutch for the Dodgers the last couple years."
Smith’s at-bat against Smith showed why Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts keeps his catcher in the No. 5 spot in the Dodgers' batting order, between Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger.
There were two outs. There were two men on base after Smith walked Muncy on a 3-2 count. Trailing three games to one, the Dodgers were down to their last 10 outs — in a season when anything less than a World Series win will be considered a disappointment.
Here we go:
Smith, the pitcher, dropped a curve ball on the upper right corner of the strike zone. Not the pitch Smith wanted to hit. No swing. Strike one.
Smith popped a fastball under Smith’s hands. Another pitch he didn’t like. Called strike two.
Smith, the hitter, choked up on the bat. That’s not fashionable in the big leagues in 2020. But Smith hits with old-school sensibilities.
Smith, the pitcher, decided it was time to play with the edges of the strike zone.
Another fastball on the hitter’s hands, a little higher than the second pitch. Smith let it go. Ball one. Nice take.
Another fastball. Closer to the center of the plate. But too high. Smith let it go. Ball two. Another nice take. Elite strike-zone judgment.
A breaking ball that flirted with the bottom inside corner of the zone. An eager or immature hitter chases that one. Smith, the former Card, did not.
"The way he stayed in there and took that at-bat was beautiful to watch," Fox analyst Dontrelle Willis said.
The former Card's patience and maturity were rewarded. Smith, the pitcher, left a fastball on inner third of the plate, slightly above the knees.
Smith waited six pitches before swinging the bat. He took five pitches before he got the one pitch he was certain that he could hit up, up and away.
That’s what happened.
It looked like a home run as soon as Smith followed through with both hands on the swing. It was a home run, carrying well beyond left fielder Nick Markakis and the wall.
Smith carried his bat halfway to first base. Typically, he’s not a player who makes noise. But Smith let his emotions crackle as he circled the bases.
"I was pumped up," Smith said. "It got the team going. You look over to the dugout, they’re all fired up. That energy bounces off of each other, so I was letting the emotion go and just enjoying the moment."
Lacking energy for most of the night, the Dodgers finally looked like the team that delivered the best record in baseball this summer.
"Patience pays off," Alex Rodriguez said.
Will it pay off as a series-changing moment for Will Smith and the Dodgers?
We’ll find out Sunday.
Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.