The moment he spotted Don Mattingly emerge from the dugout to come take the ball from him, Caleb Smith waited on the mound with his back turned to the manager, staring off into the distance.
He didn’t appear happy. He was upset with himself for walking the last batter he faced.
But neither could he be disappointed.
Smith turned in yet another impressive start as the Marlins handed the Mets a 5-1 loss on Tuesday at Citi Field. Well, impressive to most everyone other than Smith.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"Not really," Smith replied when asked if he felt good about his pitch command. "I feel like I was more effectively wild than anything."
Smith (3-5) came within an out of completing seven full innings, holding the Mets to a run on just three hits. He fanned eight as the Marlins ended a three-game losing streak. And he issued only two walks, which have led to his undoing in some of his other outings.
"It's been a pretty simple formula for him," Mattingly said. "When he's throwing strikes, he's been pretty effective. The only time when he's really gotten in trouble is when he's been all around the zone and walking people. Tonight he was aggressive in the zone."
The Marlins scored three runs in the second against Mets starter Zack Wheeler, Derek Dietrich gave them some breathing room with a two-run homer off former Marlin A.J. Ramos, and Miami beat the Mets for the first time in five tries this season.
Most of the credit Tuesday belonged to Smith, who has turned into one of the best offseason pickups for the Marlins -- or at least the one providing the most immediate impact.
After the Mets scored their only run in the second, Smith held them to only a pair of hits before coming out in the seventh after giving up a two-out walk to Jose Reyes.
Smith threw a career-high 104 pitches, prompting Mattingly to turn to his bullpen. It was the first true test for the pen since Sunday's meltdown when Brad Ziegler and Tayron Guerrero coughed up a five-run lead in the ninth before losing to Atlanta.
On Tuesday, Ziegler, who was pitching for the first time since Sunday's disaster, worked a clean ninth.
"Some guys want to get right back out there," Ziegler said. "I don't mind having a day to kind of decompress a little bit, and used (Monday) as that day, because I didn't sleep well the night before. It was pretty frustrating. But today I felt a lot better and was mentally ready to go."
NOTE: Trevor Rogers, last year’s first-round draft pick for the Marlins, made his long-awaited professional debut on Tuesday, starting and working three innings for Low A Greensboro. Rogers gave up three runs on four hits and a pair of walks. He struck out five and threw 72 pitches.