ANAHEIM, Calif. — ANAHEIM, Calif. Maybe it was fitting that Justin Smoak hit the decisive home run in the Seattle Mariners 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels batting from the right side of the plate.
Before Sundays final road game of the season at Angels Stadium, Mariners manger Eric Wedge was asked about the switching-hitting Smoaks struggles batting right-handed this season and if he should just give up on being a switch-hitter.
Its something that wasnt even an issue prior to this year, Wedge said. I want to make sure we dont overreact to that. A switch-hitting first baseman with some power, and he does have power from both sides, thats rare, especially with the way he can play first base. Youve got to let him continue to go on with it.
Its not a question of bat speed or ability; he just has fundamental things hes gotten himself into a funk with.
To Wedge the idea of Smoak trying to figure how to hit left-handed pitchers batting left-handed something hes never done might lead to bigger struggles than from his right side.
For whatever reason, it is tougher left on left than right on right, Wedge said. You just see so much more right-handed pitching over the course of your life. Thats why there are left-handed specialists in this game.
Smoak assuaged those who doubt him for a game, yanking a slider from Angels starter C.J. Wilson into the left-field stands for a two-run homer to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning.
Its been a while, Smoak said with a chuckle.
A long while, considering Smoaks last home run batting right-handed came on Sept. 26, 2012. Oddly it was also off Wilson in Anaheim.
Smoak, who hit seven homers right-handed last season, came into Sunday hitting just .190 (26-for-137) from the right side with six doubles and six RBI.
I just have to keep working hard at it; right-handed is my natural side, Smoak said. Its just one of those things this year. Its kind of weird. I feel like Im in a better place left-handed.
Smoak will focus on fixing the right side in the offseason.
Im going to get video of every swing Ive taken this year, and I will go back and look, he said. I kind of know what I need to do, and Ill go from there.
The bullpen made Smoaks homer hold up. The only run allowed after was a solo home run by Kole Calhoun off Yoervis Medina in the eighth inning. Danny Farquhar worked a scoreless ninth, despite allowing a hit, to notch his 15th save.
It was a good outing for the Seattle bullpen, which has endured its share of poor performances this season. The group of Oliver Perez, who got the win in relief, Carter Capps, Charlie Furbush, Medina and Farquhar held the Angels to the one run on four hits over five innings.
I thought Perez set the tone, Wedge said. We had to use a lot of different guys, most of who are tired and at the end of their rope. But they sucked it up in a tight bullpen.
The extended bullpen work was due to the short, potent and pitch-filled return of Felix Hernandez to the mound. After sitting out since Sept. 2 with a strained oblique, Hernandez returned with plenty of stuff and velocity just not pinpoint command.
How good was his stuff? He struck out 10 batters in four innings. He became the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to strike out 10 batters in a start totaling four innings or less. It was also the 26th time in his career he struck out 10 or more hitters in a game.
But with Hernandez at 92 pitches after four innings, Wedge couldnt put him out there for another inning.
I was strong and I was trying not to overthrow and throw strikes, Hernandez said. But I threw too many pitches. I struck out a lot of people. Thats why I threw so many pitches.
Wedge saw enough from Hernandez in the outing to decide that he will start one more game this season, Friday night in Seattle.
I made sure I told him that as I was taking him out of the game so he didnt bite my head off, Wedge said. So were OK. He should start one more time.
Hernandez was also pleased. Hes thrown 198 innings this season, and pitching in Seattle should put him over the 200-inning mark.
I want to do that every year, get 200 or more, he said.
And he will do it at home in front of Mariners fans.
I think its fan appreciation night, he said. That will be good for me.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483