The Mariners won their fourth straight Cactus League game with a come from behind in Maryvale. Justin Smoak’s two-run homer proved to be the difference in the win.
Smoak had two hits on the day and probably should have had three. His hard opposite-field line drive was caught on a nice diving play by left-fielder Ryan Braun. For the spring, Smoak is 5-for-9 (.556) with two homers and a double and 4 RBI. Yes, spring training stats do not matter. But Smoak’s swing changes are a work in progress, and seeing tangible results particularly hard hit balls are important.
The home run (above) was a monster shot over the outfield berm in right center and it came off Brewers closer John Axford – not some kid from Class A.
Does this mean Smoak will do this during the regular season? There is no guarantee. But he feels comfortable with the swing. His approach is better and he’s balanced and staying on the ball and hitting it well. That’s a good sign for now.
Lots of videos after the jump …
The Mariners just can’t stop getting hits. That’s not a typo. Seattle didn’t quite reach its previous level of production. But they Mariners did pound out 10 hits, including three homers and two doubles. After falling behind 2-0, Seattle scored three runs in the third on back-to-back homers from Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders. Seattle took the lead for good when Justin Smoak broke 4-4 tie with a two-run homer.
Play of the game
The back-to-back home runs from Gutierrez and Saunders off of Milwaukee’s starter Yovani Gallardo were impressive. Gallardo, the Brewers’ all-star ace, gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Triunfel and then retired Vinnie Catricala. Gutierrez stepped in and destroyed a 1-1 pitch, driving it over the 25-foot batters’ eye in center field 400 feet away. Saunders followed with his own deep shot, driving a ball to right center, easily clearing the wall at the 400-foot sign.
Who was hot
Justin Smoak is on fire. The big first baseman continues to hit will all spring, going for 2-for-4. He probably could have been 3-for-4 if not for a great play from Ryan Bruan. Smoak, batting left-handed, laced an opposite field line drive to left field. But Braun dove forward and caught the low laser. In the top of the 8th with the game tied 4-4, Smoak annihilated a fastball from Milwaukee closer John Axford. The ball cleared the grass berm in right-center and bounced on the sidewalk behind it.
Who was not
Michael Morse didn’t have his best day. He was robbed of a sure base hit in the first on a diving stop from shortstop Jean Segura. He also struck out in his two other at-bats. Defensively, Morse got the start in right field. He couldn’t quite come up with a pair of shallow fly balls that led to doubles for the Brewers and three earned runs for pitcher Joe Saunders.
“When he hit, I knew he got it good, but I didn’t think he got it that good.” Mariners manager Eric Wedge on Franklin Gutierrez’s home run.
Hisashi Iwakuma made his Cactus League debut this season, pitching one inning retiring three hitters – Norichka Aoki, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Bruan – on ground balls. … Reliever Kameron Loe continues to impress, pitching two strong innings, allowing just one on two hits, and striking out two hitters against his old team. … John Hicks string of Cactus League hits came to an end with an eighth-inning groundout. He had previously been for 5-for-5 in career Cactus League at-bats. … Felix Hernandez will throw a live BP session tomorrow.
The Mariners travel to Goodyear to face the Cleveland Indians. Touted pitching prospects Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker will pitch the first four innings – two apiece to start the game. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. The game will not be broadcast live on local radio.