Mariners finally get their bats going, beat Oakland 7-1
An offensive eruption led by Kyle Seager's three-run double in a 7-1 win Saturday night over the Oakland Athletics came after a prolonged team batting slump prompted numerous pregame lineup changes.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ Oakland, 1:05 p.m., ROOT Sports
OAKLAND, Calif. — Justin Smoak stood in a clubhouse that was feeling some rare happiness for a change and agreed this was something he could build off.
Smoak didn't have the biggest of a plethora of clutch Mariners hits Saturday night in a 7-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics. But his ground-rule double in the second inning did further a rally in which the Mariners took the lead for good, helping starter Jason Vargas cruise to his sixth career complete game.
And for Smoak, with only five doubles the entire season, any time he can hit one constitutes something huge. The timing could not have been better for one of several young hitters on the bubble this weekend as the Mariners make noise about demoting some of them to Class AAA during the All-Star break.
"When you're not going good, there's always a sense of urgency there," Smoak said, responding to a question about whether he felt any pressure in light of hints the team will be demoting players. "It comes with the territory. It's definitely a process. But at the same time, it's going up there and getting a pitch you can hit and doing something with it. That's something I need to do a better job of."
One of the biggest hits was a three-run double by Kyle Seager off relief pitcher Jerry Blevins that broke open a 4-1 game in the fifth. And big were Casper Wells' solo homer in the fourth off starter Jarrod Parker and a two-run double from Brendan Ryan in the second.
That was more than enough support for Vargas to beat the A's on 107 pitches for his first complete game since tossing eight innings here in a loss nearly a year ago to the day. That particular defeat started the Mariners off on a 17-game losing streak.
Vargas won't have that to worry about that this time, having silenced the 16,136 fans at the Coliseum by keeping A's hitters in knots with early fastballs and a deceptive changeup. He tied a club record by inducing four double-play grounders to go with his six strikeouts.
"I think the arm speed's just been better," Vargas said of a changeup he worked at honing after a loss in Arizona in which he yielded five home runs. Meanwhile, the Mariners took their swings. And this time, they made contact.
It was a welcome change after Mariners manager Eric Wedge essentially alerted the world Friday night that some changes were likely coming during the break. Wedge didn't wait to make some smaller changes Saturday, putting Dustin Ackley back in the leadoff spot, moving Ichiro to the No. 2 position and installing John Jaso at cleanup.
Ackley went hitless again, while Ichiro snapped a career-worst 0-for-23 slump with a pair of singles. Jaso had a big hit to help score Seattle's first run.
Whether the big night, or what happens Sunday, will change any planned moves remains to be seen.
"Tonight was what we're looking for," Wedge said. "If anybody's wondering, that type of game was a complete ballgame."
Ryan's double came after Smoak had rocketed a Parker pitch over the right-field wall on one hop to put runners on second and third. That put Seattle ahead 3-1 and then Ryan produced a defensive gem at shortstop in the bottom of the frame, snagging a grounder to his right deep in the left-field grass and throwing Jonny Gomes out by a step.
"It seemed like there was a little more energy," Ryan said of the offense. "We were swinging mostly at good pitches."
Ryan mentioned a pair of walks worked by the Mariners with two outs in the fifth inning ahead of Seager's double. The first of those, by Michael Saunders, chased Parker from the contest. Parker was on a pitch-count limit to protect his surgically repaired arm and was already at 94.
Blevins came on and walked Jaso before Seager ripped a ball to the right-center gap to effectively put the game out of reach.
For Smoak and others waiting to learn their fates at the All-Star break, it's a matter of focusing on what they need to get done. He entered the night in a 4-for-35 (.114) slump, his season average down to .202.
"I feel like I've had some decent at-bats," Smoak said. "Better left-handed than right-handed, but it's just a matter of getting that rhythm from both sides of the plate. Last year, I was a better right-handed hitter than left-handed, so go figure.
"It's one of those things where you've got to put the work in to get that rhythm from both sides."
He'll get one more game Sunday, then find out — with the rest of his teammates — whether it was enough.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners