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Smoak keeps hitting, despite lengthy DL stint

Smoak keeps hitting, despite lengthy DL stint

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Smoak keeps hitting, despite lengthy DL stint

ARLINGTON -- Justin Smoak recorded his first three-hit game of the season in Wednesday's 4-2 win against the Rangers, reaching base four times as he went 3-for-4 with a walk.

For the big first baseman, it's the continuation of a nice stretch, as he's overcome a slow start to put together his best season yet in the Majors, entering Thursday's finale with a .255 batting average and team-leading .362 on-base percentage -- both welcome improvements over his career .228 and .314 clips.

Smoak has hit .310 (13-for-42) with three home runs in 12 games since returning from the disabled list with a strained oblique. But he was coming on even before the injury and has hit .281 with six home runs over his past 34 starts.

"I felt like I knew where I wanted to be and I was starting to pick it up," Smoak said. "And going on the DL, I tried to stay with the mentality that I know what I want to feel at the plate when I do my work on the cage and in the field, and I want to just keep that. I feel like I'm squaring more balls up. I just have to keep doing it and the more I do it, the more doubles and homers will come."

Manager Eric Wedge is pleased with how Smoak stayed locked in with his batting approach even after missing 18 games.

"It's very encouraging," Wedge said. "Sometimes it can be momentum based, or it can be real. And this time, I think it is real, because he was on the rise, then paused for a while, and came back and picked it up and has been pretty consistent. I know eventually he's going to have better power numbers and do more damage because it's in there, but I love the way the ball is coming off his bat right now. Those are good indicators."

Smoak smoked the ball three times Wednesday and had hits both left- and right-handed.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I've felt better from the right side the last times I've hit right-handed, so I'm feeling better and better and I just need to keep grinding it out."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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