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'Secret weapon' Smith comes up big again

DH fills in at cleanup for Cruz, delivers game-winning homer

SEATTLE -- During the winter, the Mariners traded a talented reliever with a big arm to get Seth Smith. Brandon Maurer might have hit close to 100 mph on the radar gun, but he didn't hit baseballs. The Mariners needed more offense, and that is what Smith was supposed to bring.

On Friday night against the Indians, Smith and Seattle continued to enjoy the fruits of that transaction with a 2-1 win.

Smith's two-run home run off Tribe starter Trevor Bauer in the sixth inning accounted for Seattle's only scoring in the game, and the Mariners got back to .500 for the season at 24-24.

"You definitely want to get on the board first, in any game, really, but the deeper you get into a game with a guy who's pitching very well, getting runs before the other team can be very big," Smith said. "It's always better to score first."

As it turned out, Smith manned the cleanup spot in the lineup on Friday night with Robinson Cano a scratch because of flu-like symptoms. Smith has hit primarily second or first, and Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon usually puts Cano third and has Major League home run leader Nelson Cruz hit fourth.

McClendon shuffled the deck a bit and ended up with the winning hand.

"I told him during batting practice that he was my secret weapon, that they wouldn't know what to think when they didn't see Cruz there," McClendon said after the game, smiling. "He didn't disappoint."

He hasn't disappointed at all this year. Three of his five home runs this season have either tied the game or given Seattle the lead, and Smith has a six-game hitting streak during which he's batting .368 (7-for-19) with a homer, three RBIs, three doubles and four runs scored. He's batting .268 this season and has 13 RBIs.

Even with all that, Smith had to laugh when asked by reporters if this is what it means to be a real cleanup man.

"I'll let you guys define it," he said.

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.
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