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09/17/12 10:00 PM ET

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.

Mariners face tough foes down stretch

SEATTLE -- The Mariners don't have playoff aspirations, but every team they will face the rest of the season will be in the thick of a postseason push. The Mariners began a three-game set on Monday with the Orioles and are set to play the Rangers, Angels and A's to close out the 2012 campaign.

Despite tough matchups, Mariners manager Eric Wedge doesn't believe his young team is looking to the offseason a couple of weeks early. In fact, he admits there's a different feel during games.

"I think there's more of a buzz out on the field, just because it's a little bit different," Wedge said. "In regard of the way these guys are going about their business, I've been proud of the way they've handled themselves. Regardless of who we're playing, they're showing up and getting after it.

"There are some games that are perceived as more meaningful than others because, quite frankly, they are. From our standpoint, every game, every win means something for us. I know they do for other teams, too, but as we're building this thing and moving forward, every win means something."

With expanded rosters in the month of September, Wedge has the job of balancing playing time with winning. He'll continue to roll out a lineup consistent with those earlier in the season, he said, but that doesn't mean the younger players won't see time. It all depends on what he feels gives the Mariners the best chance to win. On most days, so far, that has been the same guys who were with the team before September callups.

"Guys have been grinding through this thing all year, or guys have been up here most of the year, been through the ups and downs," Wedge said. "It says a lot about how you finish a season and how you play towards the end. Whether you win or lose, how you go about your business, that means more than anything. I'm proud of the way they've been going about their business. We've got 15 games left and I expect them to keep doing the same thing."

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.

Worth noting

• 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.