Smith threw 80 of his 103 pitches for strikes while allowing one unearned run over 7 2/3 strong innings as the Storm Chasers topped the Oklahoma City RedHawks, 5-1. The 22-year-old, who is Kansas City's No. 14 prospect, struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
"I had really good fastball command today, and my catcher [Cody Clark] and I were on the same page the whole game," Smith said. "I've been working on trying to keep the ball down better."
The outing was Smith's third with the Storm Chasers since returning from the Royals, for whom he made his Major League debut -- starting at Yankee Stadium, no less -- on May 23. He received a rough welcome from American League hitters, who belted six home runs off him in 14 innings. The 6-foot-5 southpaw surrendered two more long balls at Iowa upon his return to the Pacific Coast League and had yielded nine earned runs over 10 1/3 Triple-A innings before Tuesday's game at Oklahoma City.
The outing was his first in 10 days. The Royals have a policy of giving their young starters a "10-day vacation" in the middle of the season to relieve stress on their arms.
"I was the last one -- [Mike] Montgomery had his a couple weeks ago. We still have to do our bullpen sessions and workouts; we're just skipping one start."
The extra rest seemed to agree with Smith, who received an early cushion when Omaha shortstop Anthony Seratelli led off the game with a triple to right and scored on a sacrifice fly by the next batter, Johnny Giavotella. The Storm Chasers added a second run in the fifth when Derrick Robinson walked and scored on a double by veteran third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Meanwhile Smith, who threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 29 batters he faced, was cruising. The RedHawks managed back-to-back two-out singles in the second, but failed to score when Jordan Kreke popped out to end the frame. Smith was perfect in the third, fifth and sixth after working around a two-out single by Fernando Martinez in the fourth. Oklahoma City third baseman Brett Wallace was left stranded after yet another two-out single in the seventh. Smith retired the first two RedHawks batters in each of the first seven innings.
After Omaha padded its lead with three runs in the top of the eighth, Oklahoma City finally put a runner on base with fewer than two outs. Kreke grounded out to open the frame, but catcher Carlos Corporan followed with a double down the line into the left-field corner. Smith fanned Brandon Barnes for the second out and appeared to have escaped unscathed when Jimmy Paredes popped up into shallow right-center, but Omaha center fielder Wil Myers and right fielder David Lough collided trying to make the play. The ball dropped and Corporan, on the move with two outs, scored easily. Lough was charged with an error.
With the shutout having gone by the boards and Smith at 103 pitches -- his second-highest count of the season -- Storm Chasers manager Mike Jirschele brought in reliever Brandon Sisk to get the final four outs. Smith improved to 2-4 in 12 PCL starts this season and matched his longest outing at 7 2/3 innings.
Of the nine Omaha hitters, only Clark failed to collect a hit on the steamy 95° afternoon. Kouzmanoff and first baseman Max Ramirez had two apiece and Lough doubled in the Storm Chasers' fourth and fifth runs in the eighth inning.
Wallace and Martinez combined for five of Oklahoma City's seven hits. Despite his recent gopher ball issues, Smith had no problem with active Minor League home run leader Mike Hessman, the RedHawks' designated hitter. Hessman went 0-for-4 and struck out twice.
Starter Armando Galarraga fell to 1-1 in his fourth appearance for the RedHawks. The 30-year-old right-hander, best known for his controversial near-perfect game for the Tigers on June 2, 2010, allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. He walked three and fanned three.
The Storm Chasers, who own a comfortable 15 1/2-game lead in the PCL's American Northern division, took the final three games of their four-game set in Oklahoma City, knocking the RedHawks out of first in the American Southern division. The RedHawks now trail Albuquerque by one game.