DETROIT – The streak of consecutive games played ended where it started for Justin Smoak.
The Mariners first baseman was out of the starting lineup for the first time since coming off the bereavement list April 26 in Detroit.
That’s 39 straight games. His only time off came on Mariners’ days off and two rainouts in Cleveland on May 14 and 15.
“I needed to get Smoak a day,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said before the game. “We were going to give him a day (Wednesday), but I felt like it was important for him to play. So we gave him today.”
Twelve games into that 39-game stretch, Smoak was moved up in the batting order from fifth to third with the departure of Milton Bradley on May 10.
It’s too early to be concerned, but Smoak’s offensive numbers are down considerably since he moved to No. 3. In 27 games at the new spot, Smoak is hitting .206 (21-for-102) with a .308 on-base percentage and a .402 slugging percentage. He’s hit five homers and driven in 13 runs, while drawing 14 walks and striking out 26 times.
In 29 games batting No. 5, Smoak hit .293 (29-for-99) with a .393 on-base percentage and a .535 slugging percentage. He had five homers, 21 RBI, 17 walks and 29 strikeouts.
Yet Wedge isn’t that worried about the numbers. He expected them to retreat as Smoak managed the difficulties of hitting third.
“He’s had a lot of big hits,” Wedge said. “When you are getting big hits, it means you are up there at the right time. That means a lot. That’s why that 3-4 hole range is a tricky thing, but it’s so, so important.”
Just as important, Wedge said Smoak hasn’t changed his approach. He hasn’t let the pressure of hitting higher in the order and the ensuing responsibilities get to him.
“I think his approach has been very consistent,” Wedge said. “Whether he’s hitting third or fifth, his mindset is pretty even-keeled.”
Smoak is laid back in his demeanor and personality. Think Brendan Ryan and then go in the other direction.
“I’d say they’re polar opposites” Wedge said with a laugh.
An exchange before Thursday’s game was a good example of Smoak’s unflappable demeanor.
“Getting a day off today?” he was asked.
“Yep,” Smoak replied.
Did you think you needed one?
“I don’t know. I guess,” he said. “It’s cool.”
CUST, FIGGINS REST
Chone Figgins and Jack Cust were also held out of the lineup Thursday. Figgins’ continued slump has prompted Wedge to use Luis Rodriguez more. And, for the second straight game, recently called up Mike Carp started in place of Cust.
“We’re just mixing and matching,” Wedge said. “I wanted to get (Greg) Halman back in there and give Carp another day. We’re going to work that dynamic with the three young kids between left field and the DH spot.”
So what does that mean for Cust? His production of late has been so-so. In his past 10 games, he is hitting .206 (7-for-34) with two doubles, a triple, one homer, three RBI, eight walks and nine strikeouts.
“When he gets back in there, he’ll be ready to go, “ said Wedge. “We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now. We are working to progress with everything, whether it be with our younger players, or some of our veteran players trying to get them going.”
SHORT NIGHT FOR BOTH TEAMS
If you noticed a few yawns from players on both teams during Thursday’s game, it wasn’t from disinterest. Both teams had late arriving flights because of severe thunderstorms.
The Tigers returned to Detroit around 3 a.m. after a long flight from Dallas. The Mariners were supposed to have a quick flight from Chicago. But thunderstorms delayed them from taking off for a few hours. They landed in Detroit about 4 a.m.
“I’m glad we got off the ground,” Wedge said. “I’m glad we got on the ground.”
One player who got a good night’s sleep was Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who flew home the day before.
The Mariners meet the Tigers at 4:05 p.m. today at Comerica Park. Seattle will send left-hander Erik Bedard (3-4, 3.46 ERA) to the mound for his 12th start of the year. The Tigers will go with right-hander Brad Penny (5-4, 4.76 ERA). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners