One is tempted, after learning that a player has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, to discount whatever value that player has provided on the field before positive test. There’s an asterisk applied. An unspoken caveat. A bit of a good old-fashioned “well, actually.”
Facing Kyle Kendrick isn’t exactly the same thing as using PEDs. Kendrick certainly has a habit of enhancing the performances of opposition batters, but the players who hit against Kyle Kendrick aren’t technically cheating. They’re not doing anything insidious, not violating some sort of rule, written or unwritten. They’ve simply had their names penciled into the lineup on the same day that Kendrick has been asked to start for his club. No need for an asterisk. A mental note, perhaps. But bad pitching is a part of the game. In some form, there will always be a Kyle Kendrick.
Seth Smith happened to be in the lineup when Kendrick started against Baltimore on Thursday. Perhaps it’s not accurate to say that he “happened” to be in the lineup. He’s the team’s usual leadoff man against right-handed pitchers, and Kendrick does indeed throw with his right hand. So there Smith was, doing the job that the Orioles have asked him to do. He’s not a typical leadoff man, in that he’s not a speedster. But he gets on base, and that’s what matters in the quest to set up Adam Jones and Manny Machado.
Suffice to say, Smith did his job on Thursday night.
Smith went 4-for-4 with a walk and scored two runs as Baltimore walloped Boston 8-3. Kendrick went just four innings. He allowed six runs, including a moonshot by Machado. He was, in essence, Kyle Kendrick. But that simple fact, that very essential and intrinsic fact of baseball, helped Smith morph into a fearsome, exasperating monster of a player for the duration of the game. Smith entered the game hitting .222. He exited hitting .286.
There was no big, ringing hit from Smith. The closest thing to it was an opposite-field double that brought two runs home. But it was how his hits happened that made this night special. Because the things did on Thursday made him appear awfully similar to Mike Trout, who just so happens to be the best player in the game.