Smoak putting together strong stretch

Smoak putting together strong stretch

CLEVELAND -- While he didn't hit his second home run of the season until the ninth inning of Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Indians, Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has quietly been putting together a strong three-week stretch that has lifted his batting average to .254.

Going into Sunday's game, Smoak had reached base safely in 12 straight starts and is hitting .328 (20-for-61) over the past 19 games with a .992 OPS.

The 26-year-old from South Carolina has been seeing the ball better this season, waiting for his pitches, and is tied for seventh in the American League with 24 walks. The only thing missing for Smoak has been power, and he figures that will follow if he continues swinging well and being selective.

"I've been squaring balls up," Smoak said. "I've hit a couple doubles. The homers will come. In the past, I've got too pull-happy trying to be a homer guy. It's not good for me, as we've seen in the past. I'm just trying to get good at-bats -- hit the ball where it's pitched. It's a long season. Good things will happen."

Manager Eric Wedge said Smoak is following a natural progression that will pay off for him in the long run this year.

"I feel like Smoak and [Dustin] Ackley have been getting their hits, but now with Justin, he's starting to create a little more damage. He had the double the other way and the home run. That's what he's capable of doing. But he's been getting on base. He's had long at-bats. Those have all been good things to see.

"You have to hit first, and then if there is power in there, it'll come in time. But you can't shortcut the process and try to get there without having the other because you'll come up empty. He's done a good job with that."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.