09/16/12 9:49 PM ET
Two big hits a good sign for Smoak
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
Smoak had just one RBI over the previous 21 games, so that was a welcome breakthrough as he looks to find some success to build on in a season where he's hitting .196 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs in 116 games going into Sunday's series finale with the Rangers.
Smoak has hit .225 with two home runs and six RBIs in 24 starts since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma in mid-August.
"I've been working really hard left-handed and to finally see something come out of it was good," Smoak said after taking Tanner Scheppers deep in the eighth inning for his first home run since Aug. 18.
Adding an insurance run on an RBI single off Alexi Ogando in the ninth inning Saturday was just as big. Smoak said he's finally seeing some results from his attempt to tighten up his hitting stroke.
"I'm trying to keep both hands on the bat and shorten it up a little bit," he said. "I think it's happened. My swing got long there for a while, so I'm trying to keep it short and simple. I turned around a couple fastballs, so that's always a good sign."
Manager Eric Wedge was in full agreement and had Smoak back in the lineup Sunday.
"Last night was a big spark," Wedge said. "For him to hit that big home run after they tied it up and then turn around an 0-2, 96-mph fastball up in the zone and about decapitates [Michael] Saunders at first base, that's real.
"If anybody is looking for signs, that's it. For me, if you can do it once, you can do it twice. Then you can keep on moving down the line from there."
Vargas proud of again surpassing 200 innings
ARLINGTON -- Jason Vargas still has two or three starts left this season, but the Mariners left-hander surpassed the 200-inning mark in Saturday's 8-6 victory over the Rangers and set a career high in the process.
The 29-year-old has now exceeded the 200-inning mark for two consecutive years. He hit 201 last season and now has 204 2/3 this year, one of just seven Major Leaguers at that milepost heading into Sunday's games.
"It's a great feeling," Vargas said. "I feel like if I'm able to do that, then I'm really contributing and going out there and giving our team a chance to win ballgames and being a significant part of the team."
Though he wound up with a no-decision on Saturday when the Rangers rallied to tie the game after his departure, Vargas leads the Mariners in wins with his 14-10 record, one more than Felix Hernandez. And in games Vargas has started, Seattle is 17-14, one more win than Hernandez's 16-14 mark.
Manager Eric Wedge said the 200-inning mark is a great indicator of the reliability and consistency teams need from their starters.
"That means a lot," Wedge said. "First of all, it means somebody you can count on. He's done a better job this year taking care of himself. He's stronger. His routine is better. And I think he really believes how good he is and that's a good thing.
"To pitch 200 innings in the big leagues is a big deal. It's not something you can just brush off. His teammates know they can count on him every fifth day and that says a lot, and to be successful doing it."
The other pitchers at 200 innings through Saturday were Detroit's Justin Verlander (217 1/3), Hernandez (212 2/3) and Tampa Bay's James Shields (205 1/3) in the AL and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (206 2/3), the Mets' R.A. Dickey (205) and the Padres' Clayton Richard (202) in the NL.
Wells out of action for a second straight game
ARLINGTON -- Outfielder Casper Wells was sidelined again Sunday with a stiff neck that tightened up on him while hitting in the batting cage prior to Saturday's game against the Rangers.
Wells was scratched from the starting lineup Saturday and wasn't available again on Sunday, according to manager Eric Wedge.
"He's scuffling," Wedge said. "He really got locked up bad. I haven't seen him yet today, but I'm hoping he got some sleep last night. If you've ever been there, that's no fun. It was just one of those fluke things. Backs and necks are tough. There's not much you can do."
Wells is hitting .222 in 80 games with the Mariners this season and Wedge had hoped to use him more in the coming days in order to take advantage of his defensive presence. The 25-year-old is 1-for-9 since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma earlier this month. He played in six of the first nine games after being brought back, with the last three as a late-inning defensive replacement.
"I was just excited to be back in the lineup," Wells said Sunday. "I took some swings and felt a sharp pain. I thought I could shake it off, but I started getting sharp shooting pains up the back of my neck and couldn't even hold my head up. They said it was maybe an inflamed nerve or something."
• The Mariners finalized their pitching rotation for the upcoming homestand. Hector Noesi (Monday), Erasmo Ramirez (Tuesday) and Felix Hernandez (Wednesday) will pitch against the Orioles. Hisashi Iwakuma (Friday), Jason Vargas (Saturday) and Noesi (Sunday) will then face the Rangers.
• Manager Eric Wedge said Franklin Gutierrez will play Winter Ball in Venezuela after missing much of this year because of injuries. He said decisions are still being made on other players, but that young catcher Jesus Montero would not play Winter Ball and many of the other youngsters currently with the team would also be held out after playing such a long season in the Majors.
• When the Mariners scored eight runs Saturday, it snapped a string of 19 straight games of five runs or less, tying for the third-longest streak in team history.