Lefty allows homer to McCann, who also attended University of Arkansas
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- Rays left-hander Drew Smyly knows Tigers catcher James McCann well. The two were teammates at the University of Arkansas, and both came up through Detroit's farm system.
Monday afternoon's matchup at Comerica Park, then, presented a pair of firsts. It was Smyly's first start against his former club after he was traded last summer, and it also marked McCann's first Major League plate appearance against his former batterymate.
The Tigers' catcher belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Smyly yielded a two-run shot to Rajai Davis as the Rays pitcher didn't receive a decision in a 5-4 loss.
"It was fun," Smyly said of his return to the Motor City. "It was a big game for me. I was excited to come into it. I know a lot of those guys and had great years over there.
"I thought I threw the ball well. It was really two bad mistake pitches that cost me that they hit two home runs off of. Take away those two pitches, and I thought I did pretty well."
The first mistake was a hanging curveball to Davis in the third. Smyly had gotten ahead in the count, 1-2, but he left the offspeed pitch at the top of the zone, and Detroit's left fielder hit it on a line over the fence in left.
The following inning, Smyly faced McCann, who had singled on a fastball in the second. This time, the left-hander elected to start the catcher off with a cutter down and in, but McCann seemed ready for it and blasted it deep into the left-field seats.
"He's probably seen a lot of those from back in the day," Smyly said.
McCann's take on the home run?
"I'm sure we'll be able to talk for many years about the success and failure of each of us," the catcher said, mentioning pitcher Dallas Keuchel, another former Razorback. "It's all fun. There's no hard feelings."
Smyly, who was making his fifth start since missing more than three months with a torn labrum, was pulled after the fifth inning at 85 pitches. The outing raised the lefty's ERA to 4.15 since coming off the disabled list, but the performance didn't discourage Rays manager Kevin Cash.
"He really just got burned by a couple of offspeed pitches that didn't get below the zone," Cash said.
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.