MARYVALE, Ariz. — Even Justin Smoak is surprised by how comfortable he’s feeling batting from the left side.
Smoak delivered a two-run, eighth-inning home run Tuesday to help in a 6-5 Cactus League baseball win by the Mariners over the Milwaukee Brewers. Carlos Peguero had just tied the game with a double when Smoak launched a 2-0 pitch from Brewers closer John Axford over the right-field wall.
It’s the second home run by Smoak from the left side this spring. The switch-hitter batted just .208 from that side last season, but spent the winter shortening his swing.
“I feel like it’s slowing the ball down a little bit,” Smoak said. “Early on (in spring training) you normally feel like everything’s a little quick and you’re trying to get your rhythm and timing down, but for me I’ve actually been seeing it a lot better than I thought it would be.”
Smoak also ripped a single into right field earlier, then lined a ball the other way to left field before Ryan Braun robbed him of a hit with a diving catch. He is 5 for 9 (.556) in his first three spring games.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was pleased to see Smoak line the ball the other way as well.
“Not only was he driving the ball pull-side, but he was driving the ball the other way too,” Wedge said. “His bat head’s in the zone longer, he’s in a strong position to hit. He’s just much more grounded up there than he used to be.”
• Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma needed just 15 pitches to dispatch the Brewers on three ground-ball outs in his only inning.
“I feel a lot stronger than I was last year,” Iwakuma said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “And I’m very comfortable with my strength
“I started (training) a lot earlier than I had in the past.”