DETROIT — Catcher Kevan Smith’s Players Weekend nickname is ‘‘Webby,’’ in honor of former teammate, best friend and White Sox right-hander Daniel Webb, who died in an all-terrain-vehicle accident Oct. 14 of last year.
‘‘It’s an honor to put his name on my back and know he’s still with me,’’ said Smith, who was first teammates with Webb at Class A Kannapolis in 2012.
How sweet it was, then, for Smith to connect on his first home run of the season, a two-run shot during the second inning of the Sox’ 6-1 victory Saturday against the Tigers. Smith also caught what might have been right-hander Lucas Giolito’s best start of the season, making it a perfect night for him.
‘‘When he hit that homer — he has ‘Webby’ on his back — it gave me the chills,’’ said Giolito, who allowed one run and three hits in seven innings. ‘‘I think it gave a lot us the chills in the dugout. It was a special moment. After he hit the homer, we were like: ‘OK, we’re going to lock this down. We’re going to get this W.’ ’’
Smith, one of the first people on the scene when Webb died, and his wife recently became parents and named their son after Webb. Manager Rick Renteria presented him with the lineup card, and the baseball he hit for the homer was retrieved as a keepsake.
‘‘The guy’s my brother,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We are so similar in so many ways, we were like family. And to see him go, you realize death doesn’t hold back on anybody. And when you see someone close to you go, it puts things in perspective.
‘‘For some reason, God sometimes takes the best ones. You can’t explain it, but one day we’ll know.’’
Smith looked up to the sky after crossing the plate on his homer.
“Overwhelming when I hit it,” Smith told a TV audience after the game. “I almost started crying running around the bases. If you don’t believe God’s up there and Webby’s watching down and he’s alive and driving, I don’t know how you can’t. That was amazing.”
Smith guided Giolito through seven excellent innings. Giolito worked with a fastball that averaged 94.3 mph — a couple of ticks higher than what he had early in the season — and got 12 swings and misses among the 76 strikes he threw. He struck out six and walked one to improve to 10-9 and lower his ERA to 5.85. Mikie Mahtook’s homer accounted for the Tigers run.
‘‘Best fastball command I’ve had all season,’’ Giolito said. ‘‘Warming up in the bullpen, I was hitting both sides of the plate super-consistently, and my goal was to just carry that right into the game. Luckily, we were able to do that. When you’re commanding your fastball on both sides of the plate, that opens up a lot.’’
Giolito, 24, had to work through a steady rain for much of the night, but he was unfazed. The control issues that had some wondering whether a demotion to Class AAA Charlotte was warranted early in the season are gone. In his last six starts, Giolito’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than 3-1 after being 1.06 in his first 20 starts. And he has more zip.
‘‘It’s frustrating to kind of be, like, 90 [to] 93 [mph] the first part of the season when I know that there’s more,’’ he said. ‘‘But all I’ve been focusing on is keeping myself in a good straight line when I’m playing catch and having good rhythm and tempo when I’m pitching. It’s kind of starting to carry over a little bit. I’m starting to throw the ball a little bit harder. It definitely helps out.’’
Matt Davidson had two doubles and an RBI, Jose Rondon had a double, a single and an RBI and Yoan Moncada had two singles and an RBI for the Sox (50-79), who have won eight of their last 11 games.
Dylan Covey pitched two scoreless innings to complete the victory.