MINNEAPOLIS -- While much of the Mariners' offensive focus understandably circles around the heart-of-the-order trio of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, veteran right fielder Seth Smith has quietly been playing a key role in the stretch run.
Consistency is a hallmark of Smith's and he certainly has lived up to that this season. His .261/.349/.437 batting line is almost a mirror image of his 10-year career numbers of .262/.345/.450.
But he already has exceeded his career best with 60 RBIs and is one shy of his high for home runs with 16.
Most importantly, Smith has been big down the September stretch, hitting .316 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in his last 13 games.
"Smitty was not really doing much in the second half, by his own admission, and he's made a few adjustments and gotten right back in there and been huge for us," manager Scott Servais said.
The first-year skipper says Smith's veteran presence shows both in his overall performance and individual at-bats when he works counts as well as anyone on the team.
"He's not trying to do too much," Servais said. "He does have power, but he's not out there trying to hit homers. He's just working a good count, gets in a good position and puts a good swing on it."
Smith, who played his 1,130th career game Friday, says that patient approach has long been part of his game.
"It's however long I've been in the league, constantly learning how to approach at-bats, knowing what kind of swing you've got going into a game, knowing what the pitcher is trying to do to you," he said. "Over the course of a career, you start fitting the pieces together a little better. It's nothing particular I'm trying to do, it's just knowing myself a little better and being able to attack situations."
Smith isn't regarded as a strong defender, and when the Mariners have a lead, Servais has been replacing him and left fielder Norichika Aoki in the late innings of most games since adding September callups Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia. But Smith made an excellent running catch to rob Kevin Pillar on a deep shot in the fifth inning of Wednesday's 2-1 win as well.
• With Seattle's record at 80-72 heading into Friday's series opener, Servais needs just two wins in the final 10 games to become the fifth Mariners manager to post a winning record in his first season. Bob Melvin won 93 games in 2003, Lloyd McClendon won 87 in '14, Don Wakamatsu won 85 in '09 and Lou Piniella won 82 in '93.
• When Felix Hernandez threw seven scoreless innings in Wednesday's 12-inning victory over the Blue Jays, it was the 173rd time in his career he's pitched seven or more innings with two or fewer earned runs. That is the most of any active pitcher, ahead of CC Sabathia (165), Bartolo Colon (158) and Cole Hamels (146).
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.