Will Smith, Newnan native, wins title with hometown Braves

11/2/21 - Houston, Tx. - Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Will Smith delivers to a Houston Astros batter during the ninth inning in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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11/2/21 - Houston, Tx. - Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Will Smith delivers to a Houston Astros batter during the ninth inning in game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, in Houston, Tx. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin

HOUSTON – Just as he always dreamed while growing up in Newnan, Will Smith finished a World Series clincher for his Braves.

The Braves won their second World Series in Atlanta history Tuesday, defeating the Astros 7-0 in Houston. It wasn’t a save situation, but Smith was on the mound for the ninth, finishing one of the most iconic moments in Atlanta sports history.

“This is the kind of stuff you dream of as a little kid, playing catch with your dad in the front yard, closing the World Series” Smith, 32, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the field after the game. “But for it to actually happen, I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet. Maybe (Wednesday) morning will calm down from this adrenaline high we’re on, but I’m just I’m just happy we got it done.”

Smith, who signed with the Braves before last season, endured his share of criticism throughout the campaign. He had a 5.84 ERA in August, leading many to question whether he should remain in the closer role. Manager Brian Snitker never wavered, constantly endorsing Smith as his ninth-inning man.

The veteran left-hander had hiccups as recently as late September. He blew a save opportunity Sept. 17 in San Francisco, giving up a homer to Donovan Solano. Later in the road trip, Fernando Tatis took him deep to win it for the Padres.

But the Braves remained confident in Smith. The hometown product delivered: He made 11 appearances in the postseason – which tied the franchise record before this season, when Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson surpassed that total – and didn’t allow a run.

Smith gave up five hits, striking out eight and walking three in 11 innings. He recorded six saves, but his most memorable appearance was his last non-save situation.

Years from now, when videos of the 2021 Braves’ final out are aired, it will be Smith on the mound, delivering the final pitch that Yuli Gurriel grounded to shortstop Dansby Swanson – another Atlanta-area native – and thrown to first baseman Freddie Freeman to complete an improbable season.

“I don’t think (that’s sunk in yet),” Smith said. “Once I saw the guy put the ball on the ground, I knew our infielders (would handle it), they’re studs. They worked with us all year, every day with Wash (third-base coach Ron Washington). So once it went to Dansby, I knew we had a pretty good chance of finishing this game off.”