SEATTLE -- Justin Smoak was fooled. He was just hoping to make decent contact.
Colby Lewis' changeup landed 360 feet away in the right-field bleachers."I got lucky that I squared it up," Smoak said.Smoak collected three more hits, including his fifth homer, and Jason Vargas pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning, leading the Seattle Mariners to a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.
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The Rangers' lack of timely hits is becoming a big concern, and it was evident again Thursday vs. the M's, writes Richard Durrett.
Seattle won for the seventh time in nine games, taking two of three from the Rangers to move within two games of .500 after starting the season 8-15.Not surprisingly, the winning coincides with Smoak's surge at the plate. The young first baseman was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Texas last July, and has been on a roll since returning from bereavement leave following the death of his father.His drive off Lewis (2-4) in the second gave him 13 RBIs in the past nine games. He is batting .353 with three homers and four doubles during that stretch."I love the fact he's up there hitting," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He's not up there trying to do too much. He's not up there trying to generate anything. He's trusting his approach, he's trusting his hands and when you do that and have ability good things are going to happen over time."Smoak drove a 1-0 pitch from Lewis into the right-field stands, then followed with a harder-hit ball in the fourth that just happened to find the deepest part of the park. His double off the wall in center barely eluded the glove of Julio Borbon, but Smoak was left standing at second as Lewis struck out the side.Smoak added a single in the eighth for his second three-hit game of the series.Smoak played behind Lewis for a bit before he was traded to Seattle, giving him an idea of what to expect Thursday night."You just know the fact he throws everything from a slider to a cutter to a curveball to a changeup," Smoak said. "It's one of those things you have to be ready to hit and if you get a pitch in the zone you have to be ready to do something with it."Seattle's Brendan Ryan broke an 0-for-21 skid with a double leading off the third and scored when Luis Rodriguez, a late replacement for Chone Figgins at third base, lined a ground-rule double into the right-field corner.The Mariners added another in the seventh when Jack Wilson led off with an infield single and scored on Ichiro Suzuki's two-out hit.That was all the offense Vargas got, and all he needed after entering with a 1-3 record and a 4.86 ERA in his career against the Rangers. The left-hander has won his past two starts after dropping his previous nine decisions.Vargas used his off-speed pitches to keep Texas guessing and allowed just one runner to reach third base before the eighth. Vargas also benefited from key double plays started by shortstop Ryan in the fourth and sixth, and a great diving stop by second baseman Wilson to rob Borbon of a single that would have put runners on the corners with one out in the fifth."I didn't think he was going to get to it and then I just didn't see the ball anymore," Vargas said of Wilson's play. "That was a pretty big play for us to keep the ball in the infield and get an out."Vargas (2-2) allowed one run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings. Jamey Wright got the final out of the eighth and Brandon League finished for his ninth save in nine chances.Lewis struck out a career-high 11 in his second career complete game. Lewis has worked eight innings in each of his past two starts, but Texas went 2-5 on its road trip and heads home for a three-game weekend series against the New York Yankees.Lewis and C.J. Wilson, who fanned 12 in Texas' 5-2 victory Wednesday night, became the first Rangers pitchers to post consecutive games of 10 or more strikeouts since Jose Guzman and Nolan Ryan accomplished the feat against the Yankees in 1992.
Figgins was a late scratch after feeling ill. He was replaced in the lineup by Rodriguez. ... Texas OF Nelson Cruz missed his second straight game with a tight right quad, but is hopeful of playing this weekend. Cruz was held out in part because of the chilly weather. ... Texas is expected to activate closer Neftali Feliz from the disabled list Friday. He's been on the DL with shoulder inflammation.