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SEA@TEX: Smoak hits a solo homer to center field

ARLINGTON -- Justin Smoak unloaded his first home run in nearly a month on Saturday, and it came at the perfect time, lifting Seattle to an 8-6 victory over Texas at Rangers Ballpark.

Smoak launched a 424-foot blast leading off the eighth inning against reliever Tanner Scheppers to break a 6-6 tie after Texas had rallied from a six-run deficit, then added an RBI single in the ninth for a welcome insurance run.

The home run was Smoak's first since Aug. 18 and capped a 3-for-4 night against his former team that lifted his batting average to .196 with 15 home runs.

"It's always good to do it against them," said Smoak, who was acquired by Seattle in 2010. "I've had a couple of good games here this year, and it just so happens to be against them, I guess."

Smoak has hit .318 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 17 games against the Rangers in Arlington since joining the Mariners. Clearly, he has some comfort level at the hitter-friendly stadium.

"Maybe a little bit," he said. "You get drafted by those guys and play here for a while and kind of feel comfortable here. It's just one of those things where I've had some big games here, and it is what it is."

Lucas Luetge earned the win in relief, with Tom Wilhelmsen recording his 27th save after coming in with two out in the eighth to get Adrian Beltre and then finishing things off in the ninth. It was his third save of more than one inning since he became Seattle's closer in June.

"I was able to get an extra out today," Wilhelmsen said. "I try not to change things too much [in that situation]. In a tight game, you have to stay right where you are, and I was able to do that and we were able to add on another run, which helped quite a bit."

The win improved the Mariners to 3-2 on this road trip and 70-76 overall heading into Sunday's series finale with the Rangers (86-59), who saw their lead in the American League West lead over the A's -- who won on Saturday -- shrink to two games.

Jason Vargas' strong start was sullied only by a three-run bomb by Texas catcher Mike Napoli in the sixth that cut Seattle's early lead to two runs. Vargas wound up going 5 2/3 innings with four runs on six hits.

Handed a six-run cushion after Seattle knocked Rangers starter Scott Feldman out in the third inning, Vargas wound up with a no-decision that leaves him at 14-10 with a 3.92 ERA with three likely starts remaining.

"That three-run home run almost came back to bite us, but we came back and scored late, and that's usually what they do," Vargas said. "It was good to see us turn the tables a little bit."

Left fielder Michael Saunders had a 2-for-4 night with three RBIs, continuing his late-season push, as he's hit .352 over the last 15 games in raising his season average to .252.

Dustin Ackley added a solo blast in the third, lifting him to 12 home runs and 50 RBIs on the season.

The Mariners went into the night as the only team in the Majors yet to score five runs in a September game, but they cut Feldman's night short with a five-run rally in the third inning alone.

Ackley led off that burst with his 377-foot shot to right field before Saunders added a two-run triple. Smoak and Eric Thames also had RBI singles as Seattle totaled five hits and a walk while batting around in the frame.

"We were stringing some big hits together tonight," Ackley said, "and that's something we haven't been doing. We scratched things together. That was the biggest thing -- we finished some innings, as opposed to somebody not getting the big hit. [Saunders] stepped up big with the triple. That was absolutely huge, and Justin late in the game as well."

Feldman gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings and is now 6-11 with a 5.32 ERA. But until Scheppers' arrival in the eighth, the Mariners couldn't add on after Feldman's departure, as recently promoted reliever Martin Perez didn't give up a hit for the next 4 1/3 innings.

Napoli, just activated off the disabled list, got the Rangers back in it with his first-pitch, 419-foot bolt on a high fastball in the sixth.

"That was a pitch I was trying to throw for a ball, but I threw it for a strike on the inner third of the plate, and he murdered it," said Vargas.

Nelson Cruz cut the margin to one run with an RBI single in the seventh off Shawn Kelley, driving the ball right between a diving Kyle Seager and Brendan Ryan on the left side of the infield. David Murphy tied the score with a slow roller to second with the bases loaded off Luetge.

But that just set the table for Smoak, who was happy to deliver.

"We're fighting to win ballgames," said the big first baseman. "That's what we do day in and day out. We try to do whatever it takes, and today we were able to come through offensively, and [Wilhelmsen] came up there at the end and closed it out for us."

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