BY SPNW Staff 09:01PM 09/15/2012

After Mariners blow six-run lead, Smoak wins it

Justin Smoak, the prize acquisition in the 2010 trade with Texas for Cliff Lee, has been anything but for the Mariners. For a night, however he delivered a little on the promise Seattle saw in him.

His solo home run in eighth and RBI single in the ninth Saturday night rescued the Mariners after they had blown a six-run lead, providing the difference in an 8-6 triumph over the division-leading Rangers, whose margin over the surging Oakland A’s dropped to two games.

The Mariners went up 6-0 after a five-run third inning, but watched as the Rangers came back with a three-run homer in the sixth by Mike Napoli and two more in the seventh to tie at six.

Smoak answered in the eighth by sending a first-pitch fastball 424 feet into center field off reliever Tanner Scheppers. In the ninth, Smoak drove in his third RBI of the game with a single to right to score Munenori Kawasaki, pinch-running for John Jaso, who had singled.

A night after a dispiriting bullpen collapse that was largely responsible for a 9-3 loss to the Rangers, Tom Wilhelmsen picked up the save and Lucas Luetge got the win. The runs were the most for the Mariners since a 9-8 loss to Chicago Aug. 24.

In the five-run third, Dustin Ackley led off with home run. After an out, Kyle Seager singled and Jaso walked. Both scored on a triple by Michael Saunders. He moved up on an out and scored on a single by Eric Thames, which finished starter Scott Feldman, who gave up seven hits and two walks in 2.2 innings.

Thereafter, Rangers reliever Martin Perez slammed the door, allowing the Mariners no hits and one walk over 4.1 innings.

The Rangers got one back in the third on a sacrifice fly Nelson Cruz after Seattle starter Jason Vargas walked the bases full. Vargas sailed along after that until the sixth, when Cruz singled and Michael Young doubled ahead of Napoli’s blast, which chased Vargas after 104 pitches.

Shawn Kelley struggled in the seventh, giving up a walk and two singles that produced a run. A wild pitch advanced the runners, which forced an intentional walk. Adrian Beltre’s infield ground-out tied it at 6, to the delight of a sellout crowd of 47,267.

The Mariners will try for a series split Sunday with Blake Beavan starting against Matt Harrison.


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