Smoak continues early surge against Brewers
PHOENIX -- Looking to carry last year's strong finish over to 2013, Justin Smoak continued his impressive start to Cactus League play with a 2-for-4 day, including the game-winning home run, in Tuesday's 6-5 victory over the Brewers.
Smoak is now 5-for-9 with two home runs, a double and four RBIs in three games. Last year, he batted .378 in the spring, but had no homers and five RBIs in 15 games.
The 26-year-old is hitting the ball with authority, and Tuesday's blast, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, came off Brewers closer John Axford. He also singled in the second off starter Yovani Gallardo and laced an opposite-field line drive in the third that left fielder Ryan Braun snared with a nice diving catch.
"I'm feeling good," Smoak said. "I feel like I'm slowing the ball down a little bit and letting it get to me. Early on, you normally feel like everything is a little late trying to get your rhythm and timing down, but for me, I've been seeing it a lot better than I thought I would."
Manager Eric Wedge is counting on Smoak as his everyday first baseman this year, despite his .217 batting average in 2012, particularly if he can continue to show that September's strong finish was legitimate.
"He's just been swinging the bat well," Wedge said. "He's got great balance up there, he's strong, his hands are quick and his barrel is getting to the baseball. I just think he's in a good place. He's worked hard to get there, and it's paying off for him."
Smoak was at designated hitter the whole game Tuesday, as Wedge looks to get him comfortable with his swing early.
"We saw the results at the end of last year, and I'm just trying to keep that going into this year," Smoak said. "It's something I worked on all offseason, and I feel good right now."