September 8, 2011 in Sports

Smoak’s homer boosts M’s to victory

Associated Press
Kevin Casey photo

Seattle Mariners’ catcher Chris Gimenez, left, tags out Kansas City Royals’ Jeff Francouer at home on a fielders choice in the second inning, during a baseball game in Seattle, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE — Justin Smoak hit his first home run in nearly three months, a two-run shot in the sixth inning, to help the Seattle Mariners claim a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals Thursday night.

Smoak hit a 1-1 fastball from Luke Hochevar (10-11) into the right-field seats for his 13th, but first since June 12. He had gone 48 games between home runs.

Jason Vargas (8-13) picked up the victory, his first since Aug. 10. He worked six innings, allowing four hits and one run. Jamey Wright, Tom Wilhelmsen each worked a hitless inning.

Brandon League had a little trouble getting out of the ninth. He took a two-out line drive from Mike Moustakas off his left leg, with Moustakas reaching. Shortstop Brendan Ryan bobbled a Johnny Giavotella ground ball.

League got Salvador Perez to ground out to end the game and earn his 34th save in 39 opportunities.

Ichiro Suzuki opened the Mariners first with a first-pitch home run to right field. He has four home runs, all leading off the game. It was his 36th career leadoff home run — out of 94 career homers — sixth on the all-time list.

The Royals missed on a couple scoring chances against Vargas.

In the second, Jeff Francoeur lifted a one-out triple into the left-field corner. Left-fielder Mike Carp missed it on a dive and it bounced past him.

With the infield drawn in, Moustakas hit a two-hopper to second baseman Dustin Ackley, who threw home on the run. His throw bounced in front of the plate but catcher Chris Gimenez gathered it smoothly on the hop then was slammed by Francoeur. Gimenez held his ground and the ball for the out.

Vargas had mild trouble again in the fifth, beginning with a one-out walk to Moustakas. Then with two outs, Perez reached out and lifted a single to center, pushing Moustakas to second.

Alcides Escobar then lined out to second.

The Royals finally broke through in the sixth. Melky Cabrera reached on a one-out bunt single up the third-base line. With two outs and a 1-1 count to Eric Hosmer, Cabrera stole second, his 18th.

Eric Hosmer followed with a RBI single to center. Cabrera scored without a throw, tying the game 1-1.

Hochevar, coming off two straight wins, went 6-2/3 innings. He struck out a season-high nine and walked three, although his base on balls to Ackley in the sixth was followed by Smoak’s blast.

Ichiro singled in the seventh then stole second and third, giving him 37, third most in the American League. He scored when Escobar booted Ryan’s ground ball.

Mariners pitchers now have held opponents to two runs or fewer 50 times. They are 40-10 in those games.

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