On night of missed chances, Smoak homers twice

On night of missed chances, Smoak homers twice

On night of missed chances, Smoak homers twice
ANAHEIM -- Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak continued his scorching September with two home runs Tuesday, but Seattle couldn't overcome a Major League record-tying 20-strikeout night in losing to the Angels, 5-4.

Smoak became just the fourth Mariners player to homer from each side of the plate in the same game and first since David Segui in 1998 as he went deep with a solo blast hitting left-handed in the fourth and a two-run, right-handed shot in the seventh.

Smoak finished 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs and moved into a tie for the team lead with 18 home runs. After a season-long struggle, the 25-year-old first baseman has hit 17-for-36 (.472) with four home runs over the past 10 games to raise his average from .189 to .212.

Smoak said the only time he's ever hit home runs from both sides in the same game was for Team USA in the 2009 World Cup tournament.

"I've never done it up here and I never did it in college," Smoak said. "Usually I hit one left-handed and get up late in the game right-handed and try to hit one and it never happened. Tonight my focus was not on trying to hit a homer."

Most of the Mariners were simply trying to make contact in an unorthodox game in which Seattle racked up 11 hits, but struck out 20 times and went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners are 3-for-53 with runners in scoring position over a six-game-plus span.

Zack Greinke and four relievers tied the Major League record by striking out 20 batters in a nine-inning game as the Angels kept their playoff hopes alive by staying two games behind the A's in the AL Wild Card race.

The 20 strikeouts equaled the Mariners' club record set by Rogers Clemens against Seattle in Boston on April 29, 1986. Only four teams have ever struck out 20 times in nine innings and the Mariners now have two of those games.

But it wasn't an overpowering performance by Greinke or his bullpen as Seattle had runners on base in seven different innings and pushed the Angels to the wire.

"It was an odd game," said manager Eric Wedge. "You make a very good starting pitcher throw 110 pitches in five innings -- a lot of that is because of his strikeouts -- but we had some long ABs, we hit the ball decent, Smoak had a great night for us again, which was great to see. That's huge for him and huge for us."

Every Seattle starter struck out at least once, with Dustin Ackley going down four times and Trayvon Robinson and Brendan Ryan three apiece.

"I just missed pitches to hit," said Ackley, who also doubled and scored in the seventh. "It wasn't like there was anything crazy going on. It didn't even seem like we were striking out that much. We were hitting balls hard, but it was one of those days where if we weren't hitting it hard, we were striking out."

Seattle lost for the sixth time in its past eight games in falling to 72-82. Rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez took the loss after allowing five runs (three earned) and seven hits in six innings.

Greinke racked up a season-high 13 strikeouts -- including four in one inning -- but lasted just five innings as his pitch count climbed to 110 as he gave up seven hits and two walks even while holding a 2-1 lead.

The 13 strikeouts were the most by a Major League pitcher in five innings since Randy Johnson rung up that total for the D-backs on July 4, 2001, in the first five innings of a six-inning start. No pitcher since 1920 had recorded 13-or-more strikeouts in a start of no longer than five innings.

"I felt pretty good, just trying to get ahead of guys," Greinke said. "That was the plan, and it just kind of worked out that I got a lot of strikeouts early. Later on, I had to go for strikeouts because there were people in scoring position and a close game. It was just kind of fluky, I would say is the main thing that happened."

The Mariners' previous strikeout high for a nine-inning game this season was 15. They struck out 18 times in their 18-inning loss to the Orioles last week.

Smoak accounted for the lone run off Greinke, surviving an umpire's review in the fourth inning after the ball deflected off the top of the high wall in right field.

Seattle scored three times in the seventh off reliever Scott Downs on back-to-back doubles by Ackley and Franklin Gutierrez, followed by Smoak's second home run.

Ramirez pitched better than his line would indicate, giving up a pair of unearned runs after a Kyle Seager error in the first, while most of the Angels' early hits came on bloop shots that managed to find holes. The Halos finally got to him with a two-run home run by Torii Hunter in the fifth, then a solo shot by Erick Aybar to the short porch down the right-field line in the sixth.

"Erasmo has been throwing the ball well and he did again tonight," Wedge said. "He deserved a better fate than that."

"That's baseball," said the 22-year-old. "They hit some balls in the right spots and I just tried to continue pitching and keep the game close. I had a little bad luck in the fifth and then I threw a high pitch, the slider [to Hunter] where I missed the spot and they made me pay for it. But I tried my best and now I'll just wait for the next start. This one is done."

As a starter, Ramirez is 1-3 with a 3.76 ERA in seven starts, including 1-2 with a 2.27 ERA in his last five outings.

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.