Smoak credits late push to fixing swing flaw

Smoak credits late push to fixing swing flaw
ANAHEIM -- Justin Smoak doesn't want to be known as Mr. September, but the Mariners first baseman is glad to finally see his bat heating up in the final weeks of a frustrating season.

Smoak, 25, hit a pair of home runs in Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Angels to raise his September average to .362 (21-for-58) with four doubles, four home runs and eight RBIs in 18 games going into Wednesday night's contest against the Angels.

In just the last 10 games, Smoak raised his batting average from .189 to .212 by going 17-for-36 (.472) with four home runs. Add in six walks during that span and he's reached base in 23-of-42 plate appearances for a .548 on-base percentage.

Smoak said he's been tinkering with his swing, looking for answers most of the season, and things finally started clicking when he went back to something his dad used to tell him.

"In Little League, high school, college, when I'd start to struggle he'd say keep both hands on the bat," said Smoak, whose father died of cancer last year. "He was as old-school as you could possibly be. Of course then I was like, 'Right, whatever.'

"But that's what I've gone back to, especially left-handed, and it seems to be working out right now."

And, yeah, he wonders as well why it took so long to figure things out.

"It frustrates you because you've finally get something worked out and it's the simplest of things," he said. "You're thinking, 'Why couldn't I have done this five months ago?' But I like where I'm at right now, I like what I'm doing work-wise in the cage and BP and I just need to keep that going."

Mariners manager Eric Wedge is thrilled to see the late push from a youngster who can be a difference-maker as a middle-of-the-order threat.

"It's a big deal," said Wedge. "You're talking about a power-hitting switch-hitter who is a very good defensive first baseman. He just fits into all this so well. But he has to produce and that's what he's been doing the last couple weeks. He's done some things fundamentally that are real. It's not just a coincidence and that makes it all the more encouraging as far as I'm concerned."