KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Justin Smoak again flashed some of the power that had become increasingly rare for him the past month.

Smoak connected for a two-run homer Thursday in the first inning off Kansas City Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie, his first long ball in nearly three weeks. It came following a tough month for Smoak, hitting .177 with an on-base-plus slugging percentage of .542 since Aug. 4 heading into Thursday’s game.

But Smoak insists he’s felt fine during that time. He says he’s squaring balls up — some of them are going right at fielders — and that all he needs to do is remain patient.

“They come in bunches,’’ he said of the home-run dearth. “It’s a matter of trying to have good at-bats.’’

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Smoak also added a leadoff single in the 13th inning, but the Mariners failed to capitalize. He’s hitting .251 with 15 home runs, 37 runs batted in and has an OPS of .763 for the year.

Some of the peripheral numbers surrounding Smoak seem to support his contention he’s still doing what he had been before. His batting average on balls put into play in the past month had been just .206 compared to the .340 he’d compiled up until Aug. 4 — suggesting he’s been somewhat unlucky.

Smoak has kept his walk rate up as the season moves along, suggesting he’s still maintaining his eye at the plate. That’s something he says he needs to continue to do and then jump on the hittable pitches he sees.


Felix Hernandez will have his next start pushed back three days from Sunday to Wednesday as the Mariners allow him more time to recover from the pain in his side that forced him from Tuesday night’s game. Hernandez is feeling better, but the Mariners wanted him to throw a bullpen session first to see whether the pain returned.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/