Something big is happening with the Seattle Mariners’ offense.
Fans can sense it. Manager Eric Wedge can, too.
And Justin Smoak also knows it after driving in four runs in a 6-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night at Safeco Field.
“It’s good to finally come through in these situations,” Smoak said.
This is the big league power the Mariners (and their fans) have been waiting to see from Smoak.
Since returning from the disabled list (strained oblique) June 18, he’s 24-for-75 (.320) with five home runs and 14 RBI.
His three-run home run to center field in the sixth inning excited the crowd of 32,458, putting Seattle ahead 4-0 and extending the franchise record to 21 consecutive games with a homer, a streak that began June 20 by Kyle Seager against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
After Michael Saunders singled following Smoak’s homer, it was the end of the night for Angels starter Jered Weaver.
All four of the Mariners’ runs off Weaver were earned and all came courtesy of Smoak’s bat.
In a scoreless game in the fourth, his RBI single to right-center with two on and one out scored Kendrys Morales rumbling around third. Josh Hamilton’s
throw easily would’ve gotten Morales out – he even put on the brakes 10 steps before home expecting catcher Hank Conger’s tag – but the ball squirted under Conger’s glove, allowing Morales to score for a 1-0 lead.
Smoak had a 10-pitch at-bat with Weaver in the fourth, and drove a first-pitch fastball from Weaver in the sixth over the center field wall. The four RBI is a season-high and the most since he knocked in six runs against his former team, Texas, on May 30, 2012.
“In the first at-bat, he threw me a bunch of off-speed (pitches),” said Smoak, who raised his batting average to .266. “I was thinking he was going to sneak a fastball in that first pitch.”
The Mariners have averaged six runs a game in July after a lackluster 3.62 runs per game in June, but the surge in Seattle’s offense has been noticeable this homestand. Seattle has scored 44 runs in six games even though the Mariners lost three out of four against Boston.
And no matter the outcome of Sunday’s series finale, the Mariners have a winning record in its final 13 games before the All-Star break. Seattle is 7-5 in July.
Felix Hernandez, meanwhile, had another quality start in his final outing before Tuesday’s All-Star Game in New York. He threw eight shutout innings for the second time this season, allowing seven hits and struck out four to earn his second consecutive win after three no-decisions. He struck out Albert Pujols twice and Hamilton once. The Angeles’ power-hitting duo was a combined 0-for-8 with four strikeouts Saturday.
With a 10-4 record, it’s the most wins by Hernandez at the All-Star break and the most since he had nine wins in 2009. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Hernandez is making more adjustments on pitch location based on opponents’ swings.
“That’s been noticeable for me,” Wedge said.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @MegWochnick