video thumbnail

Must C Clutch: Smoak's homer gives Seattle a win

SEATTLE -- For nearly eight full innings Tuesday night, the Mariners looked helpless against Orioles right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. But there's been something different about this Seattle squad in recent weeks. Something different indeed.

And instead of a quiet loss in front of the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history, the Mariners awoke with a bang.

First baseman Justin Smoak launched a three-run home run with two out in the bottom of the eighth as a magical May concluded with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Orioles.

The Mariners (28-26) ended the month of May with a 15-11 record, their first winning month since June of last year, and they now sit just a half-game back of first-place Texas in the American League West.

Leave it to irrepressible shortstop Brendan Ryan to describe this latest saga, the Mariners' 14th come-behind-win and eighth in their final at-bat.

"Guthrie was tough," said Ryan, who kept the winning drive alive with a base hit. "Up until the eighth, it was a serious tip-your-hat scenario. But Super Smoaky came up and saved the day."

After being held to three scant singles by Guthrie through seven innings, the Mariners ignited after a fielding error by the pitcher opened the door for the dramatics.

Guthrie couldn't handle a throw from first baseman Luke Scott that allowed Ichiro Suzuki to reach base with two outs. Ryan singled to right before Smoak unloaded with his eighth home run of the season to the delight of the 11,692 in attendance.

"Their guy Guthrie threw arguably as good a pitched ballgame as we've had against us all year long," said Seattle skipper Eric Wedge. "He had everything going. He stayed away from the middle of the plate all day long, until that pitch to Smoak."

The young first baseman said he finally got something to hit when Guthrie elevated an 0-1 changeup that he deposited 404 feet away in the right-field seats, raising his team-leading RBI total to 31.

"He was great today," Smoak said. "He stayed away basically all night. I was looking out over the plate and got a changeup middle away and put a good swing on it."

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters acknowledged that was about the only mistake of the day by the hard-luck Guthrie, who struck out a season-high nine but still saw his record fall to 2-7 with a 3.24 ERA.

"It was just a changeup that he missed middle-middle," Wieters said. "The thing is, he located so well all night. It was just one of those pitches where you make that mistake, as soon as you throw it, you want it back."

Guthrie is familiar with a lack of run support. In five of his previous 10 starts this year, the Orioles hadn't scored a run while he was in the game, and in his 20 losses since the beginning of 2010, they've averaged 1.2 runs per start.

Seattle has taken advantage of outstanding pitching to climb back into contention, its starters posting a 2.93 ERA in May that just missed the lowest mark for a calendar month in club history -- 2.81 in September 2003.

Erik Bedard pitched well again, giving up two runs over 6 1/3 innings with six hits, one walk and seven strikeouts against his former squad. Chris Ray picked up the win in relief, also against his former team, as he pitched 1 2/3 innings of one-hit ball before Brandon League closed with his AL-leading 15th save.

Ray, who was hitting 94-95 mph with his fastball, continued to hit his stride after a rough beginning in Seattle.

"It was awesome," he said. "I saw it unraveling with two outs. We got the error and base hit and I was like, 'This is going to be good.' He'd been throwing Smoak a lot of changeups all night and I think Smoak was sitting on that one."

Bedard (3-4, 3.41 ERA) has been outstanding over his past six outings with a 2-0 record and 1.37 ERA, allowing just 27 hits and eight walks with 35 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings.

He saw his scoreless streak snapped at 20 innings when the Orioles pushed across a run on a double-play groundout by Nick Markakis in the sixth, after a leadoff walk to Robert Andino and a single by Adam Jones.

Wieters added another run with a blast to right field leading off the seventh, the first home run Bedard has allowed in his past six starts.

"That was two really good outings by both guys," Ryan said. "It was too stressful, but we'll take the 'W.'"

Batting in the No. 2 spot for the second game in a row, Ryan got two of Seattle's five hits, extending his career-high hitting streak to 11 games. He's hitting .513 in that span.

The Mariners will go for the series sweep on Wednesday when rookie Michael Pineda takes on Brian Matusz in a 12:40 p.m. PT game at Safeco.

MLB.com Comments