Smoak has bittersweet Father’s Day

mariners notebook: Two hits and an RBI help take some of the sting out of losing his dad to cancer in April

June 20, 2011 

Seattle – It was the first Father’s Day since he’d lost his dad in April, and Justin Smoak thought about it all morning.

His dad, Keith, died of cancer, and no 24-year-old gets over that in a few months.

“It was a special day for me,” he said after Seattle’s 2-0 victory over Philadelphia.

Smoak had a pair of hits off Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, and the second one was an RBI single in the sixth inning that snapped a scoreless tie.

Did he hit it for his dad?

“I hit it for somebody,” Smoak said quietly.

PROPS FOR ACKLEY

Adam Kennedy never had the same fanfare, but like Dustin Ackley, he came to the big leagues as a young second baseman.

“Three games in, you expect him to put the barrel of the bat on the ball,” Kennedy said Sunday.

And defensively?

“He’s shown a lot of range, turned the double play, and today he made probably the toughest play a second baseman can make – throwing from the shallow outfield to the pitcher covering first base,” Kennedy said.

STARTERS NO LONGER

Manager Eric Wedge has given two Mariners veterans some tough news in the past week, letting infielder Jack Wilson and designated hitter Jack Cust know they’re no longer starters with the team.

“I respect players, and veterans – guys who’ve played at this level for years – I respect even more,” Wedge said.

“Ultimately, you have to make that decision. Not what’s best for the player but what’s best for the team? What’s going to help the team win more games? What matters is how many games you win over 162.

“I don’t expect them to be happy. It’s not important that they agree with me. It’s important that they understand what we’re doing,” Wedge said.

SHORT HOPS

Nice month for pitcher Jason Vargas, who threw a career-best four-hit shutout against Tampa Bay on June 3, then a three-hit shutout Sunday against Philadelphia. … With more games on the way, the Mariners are 5-1 in interleague play this season. … Since the now-famous “Day of Rest” for Ichiro Suzuki eight games ago, the right fielder has hit in eight consecutive games, batting .471 over that stretch. … When Franklin Gutierrez singled in the second inning, it snapped an 0-for-12 run. … Since the start of interleague play in 1997, the Mariners have pitched the most shutouts – 27. Next best? The New York Mets, with 20. … Coming into the game, no Mariners hitter had faced Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels more often than Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan. Familiarity hadn’t helped – combined, those two are now 2-for-23. … How much have the Mariners improved over 2011? They’re 37-35 after 72 games this season. Last year they were 30-42. … Following a 15-11 month of May, the Mariners are 9-9 in June. … Quote of the day: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked what it was like to fly from Philadelphia to Seattle for, in essence, one win: “I’ve gone farther,” he said.

ON TAP

The Mariners have today off before beginning a three-game series against the Nationals at 4:05 p.m. Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Probable starting pitchers: Doug Fister (3-8, 3.53 ERA) vs. Livan Hernandez (4-8, 3.77).

larry.larue@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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