Smoak socks decisive blow vs. former team

Smoak socks decisive blow vs. former team

ARLINGTON -- Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak congratulated some of his former teammates on Monday night, one day after the Rangers captured their first playoff berth in 11 years.

The switch-hitter then went out and sort of said, "Take that!"

In his first game at Rangers Ballpark since the Mariners acquired him from Texas in the Cliff Lee trade on July 9, Smoak went 3-for-4 and slugged a decisive three-run home run to lead Seattle to a 7-5 victory before 29,381.

"I talked to some of the guys before the game and when they got on base," he said. "I told them good luck and have fun in the playoffs. I am proud of those guys and what they accomplished this year."

And he acknowledged how sweet it was to come back to Arlington and have a big game.

"It's always satisfying, it doesn't matter who it is," he said. "But against them, it's even more satisfying."

Smoak's 11th home run of the season -- his third with the Mariners -- was a 382-foot shot into the left-field seats that came with two outs and hiked Seattle's lead to 6-1.

It was the first home run Rangers starter C.J. Wilson had allowed at home since July 6, a span of 49 1/3 innings.

It was that kind of night for Smoak.

He also triggered a two-run rally against his former teammates in the second inning, drilling a line-drive leadoff single into right-center field, and matched his single-game high of three hits with a single in the eighth inning, setting up an insurance run that helped right-hander Brandon League notch his fifth save.

Rookie left fielder Greg Halman contributed his first Major League RBI, a run-scoring double down the third-base line in the second inning off Wilson and was given a ball that captured the moment.

But it wasn't the actual game ball. This one had such things like "Pitcher, Jack Wilson" written on it.

"I think I'll get the 'real' one when we get home," Halman said hopefully.

Another rookie, third baseman Matt Mangini, was hitless but delivered a ground ball to first base in the second inning that advanced the runner at second (Adam Moore who had doubled) to third base.

Meanwhile, Smoak extended his hitting streak to four games and is starting to look every bit like the hitter the Mariners were sure they were getting in the pre-Trade Deadline deal.

He had two hits in Sunday's victory over the Rays in St. Petersburg.

"To me, that's what we're looking for," interim manager Daren Brown said. "He had a nice day yesterday and had a good night tonight. Looking at our kids and looking going forward and what can we expect out of them, you want to see some consistency.

"That's not to say he is going to have three hits every night, but he has put together a couple of solid games and more importantly, he's running up a good at-bat almost every time he goes up there."

Good at-bats don't always guarantee hits, but Smoak seems comfortable from both sides of the plate. The first single and home run came as a right-handed batter and he added a single from the left side.

Brown described a solid at-bat as, "Going up there, getting a good pitch to hit and not missing it. He's putting some good swings on some good pitches and that's what we're looking for."

Some of those swings looked familiar in the home-team dugout.

"We always saw potential in Smoak," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He just got one [the home run] against C.J. The other two hits, they weren't on the fat part of the bat, but that's baseball. We know he's going to be a good player. He's still young. He got us."

The Mariners received a solid start from right-hander David Pauley, who improved his record to 4-8 and lowered his ERA to 3.98 after allowing the Rangers two runs over six innings.

"I thought Pauley did a nice job," Brown said. "It seemed like he was in trouble a few innings, but he kind of minimized the damage. He gave up [eight] hits, but was able to pitch out of [trouble]."

He departed with a 6-2 lead and it didn't take the Rangers long to close the gap.

The lead was sliced to one run when Nelson Cruz hit a home run to left field off reliever Anthony Varvaro, making his second appearance since joining the team last week from Triple-A Tacoma.

Left-hander Garrett Olson and right-hander Jamey Wright each contributed key outs to Seattle's second straight victory, moving it a little closer to avoiding a 100-loss season.

"Obviously, Wright coming in [in the eighth] and giving us a double play ball was huge," Brown said.

The inning-ending DP extended Wright's scoreless streak to 10 straight innings.

League was the designated closer again as David Aardsma continues to recover from a sore left oblique. He felt much better on Monday and will play catch on Tuesday prior to the second game of the series.

League set the Rangers down in order in the ninth, needing only eight pitches to finish the deal.

Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-5, just the fourth time this season that he had no hits in five or more at-bats in a game -- the second one against the Rangers.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.