By David Krueger Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Seattle manager Eric Wedge has been saying throughout the offseason and spring training that the Mariners were going to be a better offensive team this season.
If the Mariners continue to play as they did Sunday, they just might prove Wedge right.
The Mariners’ Brendan Ryan and Justin Smoak hit home runs and Ichiro Suzuki hit an RBI double in the fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie as Seattle defeated the Oakland A’s 5-3 at Safeco Field.
“It’s (the offense) been inconsistent early, but you’ve seen signs of it and we’re going to work to make sure you see a lot more of it,” Wedge said after the Mariners won their second straight, taking two of three games from the A’s in the series.
Kyle Seager, who hit a double to lead off the bottom of the second inning, scored when Ryan hit a two-out home run, the Mariner shortstop’s first career home run at Safeco Field.
“I really don’t know how it happened,” said Ryan, who is playing his second season with Mariners. “Sometimes it’s an accident and sometimes it’s a good accident. Hopefully it happens more often.”
The No. 9 hitter in the lineup, Ryan had 12 home runs in his first five seasons in the majors. He was surprised when he hit career home run No. 13, a 374-foot drive into the seats in left field. He said he’s not optimistic about fly balls leaving the field of play — especially at the Mariners’ park.
“Never here,” Ryan said of Safeco Field. “No. Not ever.”
Smoak hit a two-out solo home run on a 3-2 pitch in the third inning to give the Mariners a 3-0 lead. The Seattle first baseman said he was looking for a fastball, but was able to stay back on a changeup thrown by Oakland starter Graham Godfrey and hit the ball over the right field fence.
“I feel like right now I’m just grinding out every at bat,” Smoak said. “… To stay back on a changeup like that, that makes you feel a lot better.”
Smoak said that he’s been trying to wait on pitches, and keep his swing square. Early in the season he believes he was swinging the bat a bit too aggressively, and as a result, not getting a lot of hits.
“I think I’ve been trying to hit it out of the pitcher’s hands a little bit too much, and that’s something you can’t do,” Smoak said.
Wedge sees his first baseman getting a lot more consistent.
“He’s working to be more consistent with his swing,” Wedge said of Smoak. “… He’s so big and strong we just have to help him do a better job of just utilizing the skill set that he has.”
The Athletics tied the score in top of the fifth against Mariners starting pitcher Blake Beavan, who had allowed only one hit in the first four innings. Kila Ka’aihue singled and Anthony Recker was hit by a pitch before Oakland’s No. 9 hitter, Eric Sogard, hit a three-run home run. Beavan got out of the inning by retiring the next three batters.
“‘Just stop the damage, they’re not getting any more runs,’ is basically what I told myself,” Beavan said. “… He hits a three-run homer right there, well, that’s all he gets.”
The M’s responded with two runs in the bottom of the fifth to re-take the lead. After Chone Figgins walked, Dustin Ackley reached on a throwing error by Oakland second baseman Jemile Weeks. Figgins scored when Suzuki hit an RBI-double to right field, giving Seattle a 4-3 lead.
“He had a big hit for us,” Wedge said of Suzuki, who after a decade of batting leadoff for the Mariners, is now batting in the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
The Mariners increased their lead to 5-3 when Smoak hit a ground ball to Godfrey, who bobbled the ball on the play, allowing Ackley to score from third, before throwing out Smoak.
Beavan was pleased with how the Mariners responded after the A’s tied the score.
“Anytime your defense and your offense picks you up throughout the game like that, I think it just kind of makes you rise to a different occasion,” Beavan said.
Beavan (1-1) pitched seven innings, allowing six hits while striking out four and walking none. His earned-run average after two starts is 2.70.
Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a scoreless eighth and Brandon League closed out the ninth for his fourth save of the season.
The three Mariners pitchers held the first six batters in Oakland’s lineup to a combined 2-for-24, with Ka’aihue (3-for-4) and Sogard (2-for-4), the Nos. 7 and 9 hitters, accounting for five of the Athletics’ six hits.
The win improved the Mariners’ record to 6-5. Seven of Seattle’s 11 games have been against the A’s, with the Mariners winning five.
“We’ve played those guys a few times now and we’ve done pretty well against them,” Smoak said.
Ryan echoed the sentiment that it “seems like they’re all against Oakland.”
The Mariners have a day off before starting a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Safeco on Tuesday.
Wedge said he’s going to continue to work with Smoak, Ryan and the rest of the team, to make sure the offense continues to improve.
“It’s coming,” Wedge said. “I still feel like we’re gonna be a lot better offensively than what you’re seeing right now.”