Hard-luck Smyly closes dominant month strong

Left-hander ties Price's club record for strikeouts in April

Hard-luck Smyly closes dominant month strong

ST. PETERSBURG -- Drew Smyly has little to show for April, a month in which he has clearly been the Rays' best starter.

Smyly has endured the hardest luck of anybody in the rotation. Friday night's 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays exemplified that status.

The 26-year-old southpaw allowed just two hits -- a pair of solo home runs -- in six innings en route to his fourth quality start in five chances. Still, he took his third loss of the season.

"He's gone out and given us a chance to win, and certain games he's been borderline dominating," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

In addition to being stingy with the runs, Smyly struck out eight batters, giving him 41 for the month of April and tying David Price's club record established in April 2014. He had a 2-2 count against Josh Donaldson in the sixth, but Donaldson homered to put the Blue Jays up 2-0. Lifted prior to the seventh, Smyly didn't get an opportunity to set a Rays record for the month.

Donaldson's blast hits catwalk

"[Tying the strikeout record] says a lot about what he's done in the first month," Cash said.

Smyly appeared to be miffed by home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger's strike zone on Friday, but the left-hander chalked up the balls-and-strikes situation to, "It's just baseball."

Cash ejected

"You've got to pick your battles, keep throwing strikes, keep competing," Smyly said. "I thought I made a lot of good pitches. Just a couple of pitches went for home runs, and we couldn't score."

In the rearview mirror of Smyly's season are the no-decision in Boston on April 19, when he threw eight scoreless innings and permitted just one hit, and the April 13 loss he took against the Indians when he gave up two earned runs over seven frames. He struck out 11 in both games.

Smyly fans 11 in eight scoreless

"It's frustrating when you're losing tight ballgames," Smyly said. "But the offense is out of my control. I try to keep it as close as possible. I felt like I did that today. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and get off to a good start."

Since being acquired from the Tigers on July 31, 2014, as part of the Price trade, Smyly has made 24 starts. He has allowed two runs or fewer 17 times, one run or fewer 12 times and four hits or fewer 16 times.

"I think I've been throwing well," Smyly said. "Every fifth day, every time it's my turn to start, I try to give our team a chance to win. Pitch the best I can. It's a tough league. There's a lot of tough teams. You know, I just try and take it one game at a time."

Cash acknowledged that Smyly has had some hard luck this season.

"We know he's in a good place," Cash said. "Let's keep him there and see if we can get some wins for him moving forward."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.