By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
Seattle _ It wasn’t a huge surprise that first baseman Justin Smoak wasn’t in the Seattle Mariners lineup Sunday – he is, after all, batting .189.
What is unusual, beyond Mike Carp starting at first, is that the Mariners expect to play Smoak as soon as their next game, Tuesday in Toronto.
Yes, manager Eric Wedge said, Smoak’s season has been frustrating. No, the team hasn’t given up on the man obtained from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal.
“This off-season, we want him to get stronger, we want him to work on his swing,” Wedge said. “That means we have to make sure he understands why he’s struggled this season.
“He’s got to form better habits, mechanically. His lower half and upper half aren’t working together, and that’s the problem.”
Smoak has worked on his swing in Seattle with Chris Chambliss and in Tacoma with Jeff Pentland. Now, both coaches are with the team in September, and each has tried to help the switch-hitter.
“We’ve seen glimpses this season – he was Player of the Week one week,” Wedge said. “He’s shown the ability to do it, he just hasn’t been able to hold on to it.”
Now 25, Smoak has had 1,344 big-league at-bats, and batted .214 in his career.
Vargas at his best
Jason Vargas has had his best big-league season this year, winning 14 games so far, and been at his best – without great reward – at Safeco Field.
In 13 home starts, Vargas has allowed three runs or less 11 times. His record is 5-2 with a 2.62 earned run average.
Rookie catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero extended his hitting streak to a career-best eight consecutive games Sunday. During his streak, he has 12 hits and is batting .400. … John Jaso’s pinch-hit double in the ninth inning was his sixth pinch-hit of the season. That’s the most since Ben Broussard had seven in 2007. As a pinch hitter, Jaso is batting .353 this year. … In and out of the lineup because of injury, outfielder Michael Saunders is batting .361 with a double, triple, four home runs and nine RBI in his last 10 games. … Since coming off the disabled list 11 games ago, Franklin Gutierrez is batting .282. … Seattle finished the home stand 3-6 against the Angels, Red Sox and Athletics. … With runners in scoring position Sunday, the Mariners were 1-for-10. Overall, they stranded seven runners, including two in each of the third and fourth innings. … Alex Liddi and Miguel Olivo each stole a base, with Liddi’s leading to a run. With Olivo at second base in the sixth inning, Mike Carl and Liddi each struck out.
Larry LaRue, The News Tribune