Something big is happening with the Seattle Mariners’ offense.
Fans can sense it. Manager Eric Wedge can taste it. And Justin Smoak knows it, too, after driving in four runs in a 6-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Angels Saturday night.
“It’s good to finally come through in these situations,” Smoak said.
This is the big-league power people have been waiting to see from Smoak. Since returning from the disabled list June 18 with a strained oblique, he’s hitting 24 for 75 (.320) with five home runs and 14 RBI. His 3-run homerun to center field in the fourth jazzed the crowd of 32,458, putting Seattle up 4-0 to continue franchise-best consecutive games with a homerun to 21 games, a streak that began June 20 at the Angels by Kyle Seager. And after Michael Saunders single following Smoak’s homer, it was the end of the night for Angels starter Jered Weaver. All four of the Mariners’ runs were earned and all came courtesy of Smoak’s bat. In the fourth, in a scoreless game, 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 Hank Conger’s tag -- but the ball squirted under Conger’s glove, allowing Morales to score for a 1-0 lead.
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Smoak battled a 10-pitch at-bat with Weaver in the fourth, and honed in on the first-pitch fastball in the sixth over the centerfield wall. The four RBI is a season-high and the most since he had six RBI against his former team, Texas, on May 30, 2012.
“In the first at-bat, he threw me a bunch of off-speed,” said Smoak, who is now batting .266. “I was thinking he was going to sneak a fastball in that first pitch.”
The Mariners have averaged 6 runs a game in July after a lackluster 3.62 runs per game throughout June, but the surge in Seattle’s offense has been noticeable hit homestand, scoring 44 runs in six games, in spite dropping three of four to the Boston Red Sox.
And no matter the outcome of Sunday's series-finale, the club has a winning record in its final 13 games. It’s 7-5 thus far 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 straight win after three no-decisions. Three of his strikeouts were to two of the Angels’ power hitters: Albert Pujols (twice) and Josh Hamilton, who were a combined 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. With a 10-4 record, it’s the most wins by Hernandez at the break -- and the most since he had nine wins in 2009, and manager Eric Wedge noted how Hernandez is making more location adjustments based of opposing players’ swings. “That’s been noticeable for me,” Wedge said.