Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
2 former Razorbacks advance to World Series
Houston Astros relief pitcher Ryne Stanek celebrates the end of the top of the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of baseball's American League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
The Arkansas Razorbacks will have a former player win a World Series ring in 2021.
Two former Arkansas pitchers are expected to be on rosters for the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros. Drew Smyly is a starter for Atlanta and Ryne Stanek is a reliever for Houston.
The World Series is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Houston. The Astros are in the World Series for the third time in five seasons. The Braves are in the World Series for the first time since 1999.
Smyly, a Little Rock native, pitched for the Razorbacks from 2008-10. Stanek, who grew up near Kansas City, pitched at Arkansas from 2011-13.
Stanek was a first-round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2013 MLB Draft. Smyly was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the second round in 2010.
Both are under one-year contracts in their first year with their respective teams.
Stanek, 30, has been one of the Astros’ top relievers this postseason. He has pitched 6 2/3 innings over 8 games and has allowed 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk, and struck out 6.
Stanek earned postseason wins in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series against the Chicago White Sox and in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. Stanek closed the Astros’ Game 5 ALCS win over the Red Sox in a non-save situation.
Stanek pitched 72 times in relief during the regular season when he was 3-5 and recorded 2 saves in 4 opportunities. He had a 3.42 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and batters hit .186 against him in 68 1/3 innings.
Smyly, 32, was 11-4 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 126 2/3 innings during the regular season. He started 23 games.
Smyly has not started for the Braves this postseason, but came out of the bullpen for 3 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. He allowed 2 runs on 2 hits, walked 1 and struck out 2 in his first outing in 18 days.
Smyly has pitched eight MLB seasons for six franchises. He pitched twice in relief for the Tigers in the 2012 World Series that was won by the San Francisco Giants.
He missed the 2017 season following Tommy John surgery and pitched just once the following season in the minor leagues.
Stanek is in his fifth MLB season. He pitched for the Rays from 2017-19, and spent part of the 2019 season and all of 2020 with the Miami Marlins.
Smyly and Stanek narrowly missed on being teammates twice. Stanek arrived on the Arkansas campus as a freshman two months after Smyly's college career concluded in 2010, and Smyly was traded by the Rays four months before Stanek made his MLB debut with the franchise in 2017.
Arkansas has had four former players win a World Series — Dick Hughes with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967; Eric Hinske with the Red Sox in 2007; Dallas Keuchel with the Astros in 2017; and Andrew Benintendi with the Red Sox in 2018.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Drew Smyly had never pitched in the World Series.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.