Smoak looking to build off three-hit game

Smoak looking to build off three-hit game

Smoak looking to build off three-hit game
NEW YORK -- When you've been scuffling like Justin Smoak in recent weeks, you look for positive signs of any fashion. And a three-hit game in Friday's 6-2 loss to the Yankees was a welcome signal for the first baseman, who'd needed nine games to accumulate his previous three hits.

The Mariners need Smoak's bat to heat up, but they also need him to relax and not suffocate himself trying to save a slow-starting season. So manager Eric Wedge has maintained positive support for the youngster, and both he and Smoak were happy to see the trio of singles Friday, even if the last one was simply a slow roller up the third-base line.

The start of better things ahead?

"Yeah, I hope so," said Smoak, whose batting average bumped up 20 points to .193. "I've gotten three hits before. But it's something to build off of."

Wedge stuck with Smoak even after he went 3-for-30 over the previous nine games, including a 2-for-20 homestand. The skipper has dropped Smoak to seventh in the batting order, but he believes in the promise of a player touted as one of the premier prospects in baseball two years ago.

"I felt the first two hits were better," Wedge said. "The ball came off his bat better, both the one to right field and the one back up the middle. Those are good signs, and then he got the rolling hit there, too. All that adds up.

"I was really encouraged by his swings and where he's hitting the baseball and how it was coming off the bat. Hopefully he has something to work off of now. He doesn't have to get it all back in one day. He just needs to move in the right direction, and that was definitely a step in the right way."

Smoak said he felt better after taking some advice from Wedge in batting practice.

"I've been worrying so much about my hands and staying back and not getting out there," he said. "The big thing is Wedgie came out and we talked, and he said, 'Try to hit it out of the pitcher's hand. Get your arms extended and try to hit everything out in front, don't think about trying to pull everything, just try to hit everything out front.'

"For some reason, it got me back to where I wasn't feeling all caught on my backside. I was more loose."

Smoak's first two hits came hitting left-handed against right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda, with the infield single in the ninth from the opposite side against lefty Boone Logan. He's now hitting .226 for the season while batting from the left side (19-for-84) and .100 from the right side (3-for-30).