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Originally published February 26, 2013 at 6:33 PM | Page modified February 27, 2013 at 6:27 PM

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Justin Smoak's 2-run homer shows new comfort from left side

Mariner is 5 for 9 with in three Cactus League games

Seattle Times staff reporter

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MARYVALE, Ariz. — Even Justin Smoak is surprised by how comfortable he's feeling batting from the left side.

Smoak delivered a two-run, eighth-inning home run Tuesday to help in a 6-5 Cactus League baseball win by the Mariners over the Milwaukee Brewers. Carlos Peguero had just tied the game with a double when Smoak launched a 2-0 pitch from Brewers closer John Axford over the right-field wall.

It's the second home run by Smoak from the left side this spring. The switch-hitter batted just .208 from that side last season, but spent the winter shortening his swing.

"I feel like it's slowing the ball down a little bit," Smoak said. "Early on (in spring training) you normally feel like everything's a little quick and you're trying to get your rhythm and timing down, but for me I've actually been seeing it a lot better than I thought it would be."

Smoak also ripped a single into right field earlier, then lined a ball the other way to left field before Ryan Braun robbed him of a hit with a diving catch. He is 5 for 9 (.556) in his first three spring games.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge was pleased to see Smoak line the ball the other way as well.

"Not only was he driving the ball pull-side, but he was driving the ball the other way too," Wedge said. "His bat head's in the zone longer, he's in a strong position to hit. He's just much more grounded up there than he used to be."

Notes

• Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma needed just 15 pitches to dispatch the Brewers on three ground-ball outs in his only inning.

"I feel a lot stronger than I was last year," Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "And I'm very comfortable with my strength

"I started (training) a lot earlier than I had in the past."

Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders hit back-to-back homers off Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo in the third inning. Gutierrez sent his two-run blast clear over the batter's eye in straightaway center field. "When he hit it, I knew he got it good, but I didn't think he got it that good," Wedge said of Gutierrez, slowed by illness and injury most of the ast two seasons. "That ball went a long way."

Seattle Milwaukee
AB R H BI AB R H BI
F.Gutierrez cf 3 1 1 2 Aoki cf 2 1 0 0
F.Martinez cf 2 0 0 0 Mrphy 2b-ss 2 0 0 0
M.Snders lf 3 1 1 1 R.Weeks 2b 3 0 0 0
Thames lf 0 1 0 0 Bianchi 3b 2 0 0 0
Morse rf 3 0 0 0 Braun lf 2 0 1 0
C.Peguero rf 1 1 1 1 K.Davis lf 1 0 0 0
Smoak dh 4 1 2 2 Ar.Ramrz 3b 3 0 0 1
Shoppach c 3 0 2 0 J.Prince cf 1 0 0 0
J.Hicks c 1 0 0 0 Lucroy c 3 1 1 0
Jacobs 1b 4 0 1 0 Lalli c 1 1 1 1
Andino ss 3 0 1 0 A.Gonzlz 1b 3 1 2 1
Franklin ss 0 0 0 0 T.Grn pr-2b 1 0 0 0
V.Catrcla 3b 3 1 1 0 C.Gindl rf 4 1 1 0
Triunfel 2b 4 0 0 0 Segura ss 2 0 1 1
S.Halton 1b 1 0 0 0
H.Morris dh 4 0 0 0
Totals 34 6 10 6 Totals 35 5 7 4
Seattle 003 000 030 6
Milwaukee 021 100 010 5
E — Franklin (1). DP — Seattle 3. LOB — Seattle 4, Milwaukee 6. 2B — C.Peguero (1), Jacobs (1), Lucroy (1), Ale.Gonzalez (1), Segura (2). 3B — C.Gindl (1). HR — F.Gutierrez (1), M.Saunders (1), Smoak (2), Lalli (1). SB — Thames (1), Franklin (1), V.Catricala (1).
Mariners IP H R ER BB SO
Iwakuma 1 0 0 0 0 0
J.Saunders 1 3 2 2 0 0
O.Perez BS,1-1 1 0 1 1 1 0
Loe 2 2 1 0 0 2
J.Arias 1 1 0 0 1 2
C.Smith W, 1-0 1 0 0 0 0 0
B.LaFromboise 1 1 1 1 0 1
Farquhar S,1-1 1 0 0 0 0 2
Brewers IP H R ER BB SO
Gallardo 2 2/3 5 3 3 0 2
A.Leon 1/3 0 0 0 0 0
Estrada 3 1 0 0 0 4
J.Sanchez 1 2 0 0 0 0
Axford L, 0-1 BS, 1 2/3 2 3 3 1 2
D.Hand 1/3 0 0 0 0 0
Henderson 1 0 0 0 2 1
HBP — by O.Perez (Braun). WP — O.Perez. PB — Shoppach. T — 3:01. A — 1,732.

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