Yep, I went pun in the headline of this blog post. I can't help it. It's kind of fun with Justin Smoak's last name.
It was all over Twitter, the puns ... Smoak'em if you got'em; Smoak is on Fire; Where there's Smoak, there's fire; Smoaking baseballs; Smoak Bomb. Ok, I will stop.
But Justin Smoak is blossoming into a solid middle of the order hitter for the Mariners. He had three hits tonight including his fifth homer and his eighth double and his 20th RBI. It took the Mariners till May 14th last season to have a player - Franklin Gutierrez -reach 20 RBI.
Of Smoak’s 28 hits, 13 are extra base hits, giving him a slugging percentage of .563.
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If you watch the rhythm and tempo of his swing on both sides of the plate, he is very locked in.
“It’s been a long time, and it doesn’t happen very often,” Smoak said of how he is feeling at the plate. “When you get those times, you just have to run with it.”
And he is.The three hits came against former teammate Colby Lewis. You remember Lewis? He's the journeyman right-hander who gave the Mariners all sorts of problems last year.
A year ago, the Mariners faced Lewis four times, and he finished with a 2-1 record and a 1.55 ERA.
Of course, the Mariners of last year struggled against plenty of pitchers. But still Lewis was particularly effective.
So how did they beat him? Get players different players from last year. Smoak, Luis Rodriguez and Brendan Ryan combined for five of the eight hits Lewis allowed. With Smoak and Rodriguez driving in runs.
Smoak was in the field for two of Lewis' early games against the Mariners, when he dominated.
“You just know the fact that he’s going to throw everything from a slider to curveball to a cutter to a changeup,” Smoak said. “So you have to be ready to hit, and if you get a pitch in the zone you better be ready to do something with it.”
Smoak was sort of ready when Lewis threw him a 1-0 changeup to start the second inning. He reached out and muscled the ball to right field for his fifth homer of the season, and his fourth homer in the last 10 games. It gave the Mariners an early 1-0 lead.
“I was a little out in front and I was just trying to make contact,” he said. “I just got lucky and squared it up a little.”
He wasn’t quite as lucky in his second at-bat. Leading off the fourth inning with the Mariners up 2-0 thanks an RBI double in the third by Luis Rodriguez, Smoak crushed a 2-2 fastball to center field. In most stadiums, it would have been a sure home run. In homer unfriendly Safeco, it hit off the wall at 405 feet for a double.
So did he hit the homer or the double harder?
“Probably the double,” he said grinning.
Smoak had a similar shot off the center field wall in Detroit.
“He does have tremendous power,” Wedge said. “As a young hitter, he’s still getting better and will continue to get better.”
Jason Vargas picked up his second straight win with a solid if not spectacular outing. He had runners on every inning but one, and still managed to hold the Rangers scoreless through seven.
• The Rangers have lost each of their last three series and 6 of their last 7…after starting the season 9-1 they have gone 8-14 in their last 22 games.
• Colby Lewis recorded his 2nd career complete game (last: 6/19/10 at HOU)…set a career-high with 11 strikeouts
(prev. 10, 7x, last: 9/21/10 at LAA)…also struck out 10 Mariners April 30, 2010 at Seattle.
• Lewis is now 2-2, 1.95 ERA (8 ER, 37.0 IP) in 5 starts against the Mariners since the start of 2010…in 3 starts at
Safeco Field since 2010 is 0-2, 2.35 ERA (6 ER, 23.0 IP) with 30 strikeouts.
• The back-to-back complete games by C.J. Wilson (yesterday) and Colby Lewis today were the first for Texas since Oct. 5 (Rick Helling-L) and Oct. 6 (Doug Davis-L), 2001 at Seattle.
• C.J. Wilson (12) and Colby Lewis (11) became the first Rangers tandem to post 10+ strikeout efforts in back-to-back games since July 3 1992 vs. NYY (Jose Guzman-12) and July 4, 1992 vs. NYY (Nolan Ryan-13)
• Elvis Andrus now has an 11-game hitting streak dating back to April 25…during the streak he is hitting .333 (14x42) and has reached base safely in 17 of his last 18 games .324 (23x71)
• Ian Kinsler recorded his 10th double of the season…has a double in 4 of his last 5 games and 5 of his last 7…Kinsler had just 20 doubles in 103 games in 2010.
• Michael Young has hit safely in last 15 road games and 23 of last 25 games overall…has 11 RBI in last 8 games…now tied for 5th in all-time in hits vs. SEA with 224 hits.
• Julio Borbon extended his season-high hitting streak to 5 games…during the streak Borbon is hitting .461 (6x13)
• The Mariners have won 7 of their last 9 games and 11 of their last 17 since April 17…the 11-6 mark gives them the 2nd best record in the American League during that stretch (Cleveland, 11-5).
• The Mariners are 3-0-1 in their last 4 series after beginning the season losing 4 of their first 6 series… they split a 4-game set with Oakland (2-2), swept Detroit (3-0), and took 2 of 3 in Boston before winning 2 of 3 from Texas.
• Jason Vargas tossed a season-high 7.2 innings…only the fourth time in his career that he has completed at least 7.2 innings in a start (last: 7/18/10 at LAA)…it is the third time this season that he has pitched at least 6.0 innings while allowing just one run (last: 4/13 vs. TOR).
• Justin Smoak hit his 5th home run of the season and his 4th in his last 10 games.
• Smoak, in 11 career games against Texas, is hitting .372 (16-43) with 3 doubles, 4 home runs, 11 RBIs, and 2 walks.
• Smoak extended his home hitting streak to 6 games dating back to April 11th vs. TOR…over that span Smoak is hitting .389 (14x36), with 5 runs, 2 doubles, 3 home runs, 8 RBIs, and 4 walks at Safeco Field
• Brendan Ryan snapped a 6-game 0x21 streak dating back to April 27th @DET with a double in the third inning.
• Chone Figgins was a late scratch from the lineup and was replaced by Luis Rodriguez at third base.
• Miguel Olivo started his 10th straight game for the Mariners tonight, tying a career high (7/2/09-7/11/09 w/KC).