Justin Smoak stood in one victorious corner of the Mariners’ clubhouse while Raul Ibanez lingered across the room. Smoak has said as recently as this past weekend that he’d love to hit in the clutch like Ibanez does and repeated those words again after the Mariners’ 11-4 romp Monday night over the Boston Red Sox. A pair of doubles by Smoak with runners in scoring position and the 22nd home run of the season by Ibanez helped the revived-looking Mariners to their fifth win in the last seven games. And for Smoak, a continued pattern of driving balls deep leads to hope that, like Ibanez, he too can prolong a career that once seemed stalled before he’d gotten out of the starting gate. “You talk to these guys every day about it,” Smoak said about asking Ibanez and other veterans for advice on hitting in clutch situations. “I talked to (manager Eric) Wedge about it last week. I feel great at the plate. I’ve just got to start getting it done.” Smoak has actually been getting it done to a greater extent than any realize. His three-hit night in front of 21,830 at Safeco Field left him with an on-base-plus-slugging mark of .788, better than the .778 produced thus far by cleanup hitter Kendrys Morales. And yet, fans debate long-term contract extensions for Morales, while it’s the major league future of Smoak they often banter about back-and-forth. Fueling that somewhat skewed perception is Smoak’s slugging percentage – now up to .419 and climbing. There’s also his paltry average with runners in scoring position, which jumped from .130 to .163 Monday. That’s far lower than his regular .263 average and a major reason his runs batted in total remains a meager 17. But his fourth-inning double opened the scoring in this game and helped the Mariners snap a team-wide 0-for-25 skid with runners in scoring position. The 15-hit attack was more than enough support for starter Felix Hernandez (9-4).
Bats come alive as Mariners smack Red Sox, 11-4
Seattle Times | Jul 9