09/17/12 10:00 PM ET
Mariners face tough foes down stretch
By Josh Liebeskind / MLB.com
Smoak's progress meaningful
SEATTLE -- Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak's recent success is a small sample size, but manager Eric Wedge believes the progress is very real.Smoak is hitting .600 (6-for-10) with four RBIs, four runs and two home runs during his last three games. He hit back-to-back homers this past weekend, marking the first time he's done that since July 16-17. His blast on Saturday was his first since he went deep on Aug. 18. "Both from the right side and the left side," said Wedge of Smoak. "Turn around fastballs as best as you could do. Staying on some pitches, hitting the ball the other way. Better takes, better swings. Just a lot of good things." Smoak raised his average from .189 to .199 in three games. The switch-hitting first baseman hasn't been consistently over .200 since mid-July and spent about three weeks with Triple-A Tacoma. His 16 home runs are a career-high, though, and at 45 RBIs, he's 11 away from setting a personal best.
Despite stats, Ackley pleased with season
SEATTLE -- The season may not have statistically shaped up to be what Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley expected, but he believes 2012 will end up being one of the more important years in his career, and he's happy with the way it's gone.While the .231 average and 114 strikeouts aren't numbers to be proud of, Ackley said what he's learned in his first full season is valuable to improving as a player. "It's tough," Ackley said. "Trying to figure a swing out on the fly at the big league level is not a easy thing. There's no off nights. Right when you might think you're feeling great or whatever, you're out there facing a top pitcher in the league, or something, and you get back to your old habits again. It's extremely tough. You would like to be making your adjustments in the offseason or Spring Training. "Unfortunately for me, it was during the season, but I think that's something that's also going to be a big thing for me going forward. Just kind of learning myself and learning how to deal with big struggles at this level." As he moves into the offseason, Ackley will continue to improve on his strength, as well as what he's been focusing on offensively for the past couple weeks. The young second baseman will also work on his speed, as he tries to become more of a threat on the basepaths.
Franklin Gutierrez entered Monday's game hitting .372 (29-for-78) with five doubles, one triple, two home runs and 11 RBIs in 28 career games against the Orioles. It is Gutierrez's highest career average against any American League team. Wedge said outfielder Casper Wells was better, but wasn't expected to do much activity on Monday. Wells was a late scratch on Saturday with a stiff neck and hasn't played since.
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.