Angels’ Smith gets first crack as closer, doesn’t disappoint

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Joe Smith woke up Monday morning knowing he was going to pitch. In reality, it was more like Monday afternoon after waking up around 2 p.m. because he didn’t get to bed until 6 a.m. as a result of the Angels spending all night flying across the country.

Rather he believed it or was just delirious, the feeling stuck with him as he made his way through the Angels clubhouse prior to the team’s series opener with the Cleveland Indians sharing with some of his teammates, "I just want to pitch."

The Angels new closer hadn’t had anything to close.

Monday evening his opportunity came when his thoughts from earlier that afternoon rang true and Smith closed out the Angels 6-3 win over Cleveland.

For Smith, it was his first save as an Angel and it came against his former team, which for him, was pretty sweet.

Smith looked and felt comfortable in his new role on Monday night, although manager Mike Scioscia hopes it’s only temporary.   

"If everything works out right, we’ll eventually see Ernie (Ernesto Frieri) back in that spot," Scioscia said.

The save for Smith Monday night was just one of one in his new role but if felt like something much grander, it was for good reason.

The Angels entered Monday with a save percentage of 33 percent which was tied with the Chicago Cubs for worst in Major League Baseball.

Since his promotion and Frieri’s demotion over the weekend, Smith had yet to see the field.

"I think for him to finally, kind of, get in there and actually get to come into a save situation for the first time, I think, is huge for him going forward,"catcher Hank Conger said.

Despite getting in at 5 a.m. Monday and most not getting into the bed until an hour later at the earliest, the Angels were awake enough to muster some late-inning magic.

It was awesome. I was pretty pumped.

Joe Smith

With the game tied at 3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Mike Trout put the Halos ahead with an RBI single to score J.B. Shuck.

Raul Ibanez added some insurance with a two-RBI triple to score Trout and Albert Pujols who was intentionally walked ahead of him. The Angels sent eight to the plate in the inning and scored three runs to take a 6-3 lead and set the table for Smith to make his first appearance in his new role.

Going up against his former mates, it was a much different situation he found himself in than when he was a member of the Tribe.

"(It seemed like) I had to come in and face (reigning two-time AL MVP) Miguel Cabrera, since he was in our division, every freaking weekend with (the) bases loaded and one out," Smith recalled. "What’s a tougher spot? You’re up 4-3 in the seventh facing Miggy or you got a three-run lead in the ninth and a clean inning?

"I’ll take the three-run lead and the clean inning any day."