Smoak's clutch hitting helps Mariners hold off Rangers
An early 6-0 advantage helped Seattle hold off the Rangers and avoid a third straight loss.
Special to The Seattle Times
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Mariners' bats came alive Saturday night, with Justin Smoak coming through with three hits and three runs batted in, including the game-winning home run, as Seattle pulled out an 8-6 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Utilizing five different position players from the previous night's 9-3 loss at Rangers Ballpark, the Mariners snapped a 6-6 tie in the eighth inning on Smoak's solo home run, then added another off a Smoak RBI single in the ninth. The offensive outburst marked the club's highest run total since a 9-8 loss to the White Sox on Aug. 24, a span of 19 games.
Michael Saunders also had a big night at the plate, with two hits and three RBI, including a two-run triple during a five-run third inning.
One of the big keys for Seattle was going 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position after batting just .184 (18 for 98) in those situations over the previous 12 contests.
"I feel like we've been swinging the bats well, we just haven't been doing as good a job with runners in scoring position," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "Tonight, just keeping it going, finishing off innings — particularly that big inning early on — and then tacking on."
The Mariners had built a 6-0 lead but could not hold on, as Texas stormed back with a three-run sixth and a two-run seventh to tie it up after getting one run in the fourth.
Smoak immediately restored the Seattle lead, however, when he led off the top of the eighth with a 424-foot blast deep to center field for his 15th home run of the year. The home run came off Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers (1-1), who was tagged with the loss.
"It was good, especially against a team like that," said Smoak, who played 70 games for the Rangers in 2010 before his midseason trade to Seattle. "It's always good to do it against them. We had them early on, and you know things change quick with them."
In the ninth, Smoak, who began the day batting .190, added his third RBI of the night when his single off Alexi Ogando brought home pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki for an insurance run.
"Smoaker had a big day for us," Wedge said of the Rangers' first-round draft pick (11th overall) in 2008. "It was great for us as a ballclub, but also great for him individually — of course the home run, but also that last one was a big run for us. It was just a great effort by Justin tonight."
Reliever Lucas Luetge (2-1) was credited with the win after getting the final two outs of the seventh inning. Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the final 1-1/3 innings to pick up his 27th save of the year, but not before working his way out of a jam that saw Texas put men on first and second with one out in the ninth.
"The bullpen did a fantastic job," said Wedge. "Tommy came in early there in the eighth, got a big out for us there, had to overcome some adversity there in the ninth, but in the end was able to get it done."
Mariners starter Jason Vargas had a strong performance going, allowing just three hits through five innings, until Texas struck for three runs in the sixth, all coming off a Mike Napoli three-run blast.
Vargas came out after 5-2/3 after giving up four runs on six hits, while walking three and striking out four.
Shawn Kelley was charged with both runs in the seventh, after Nelson Cruz's seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield scored Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy's bases-loaded ground-out off Luetge brought home another run, tying the contest 6-6.