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Smith making his case for more at-bats vs. lefties

For a man who has been primarily a platoon player in a Major League career that career that dates back to 2007, Seth Smith is looking decidedly un-platoonish these days.

Smith, a left-hander, came into the season having an 11-1 edge in games started against right-handed pitchers opposed to lefties, 368 to 32. Sunday, however, was his fifth start against a lefty this season in 27 games overall, and his third in the last four games.

He’s playing about twice as often against lefties this year than he has historically.

    That can be attributed to the A’s shortage of outfielders, thanks to a recent spate of injuries to Coco Crisp (hamstring) and Chris Young (quad). And it can be attributed also to the .385 average against lefties Smith brought into Sunday. He hit .157 against lefties a year ago.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played so much against lefties,’’ Smith said Sunday morning. “It’s kind of nice to get a lot of at-bats against them on a regular basis.’’

Well, sort of. The five left-handers against whom he’s started – Jason Vargas, Jon Lester, C.J. Wilson, C.C. Sabathia and on Sunday Andy Pettitte – are among the best in the league. They don’t make it easy on a guy.

In Wednesday’s start against Wilson, Smith struck out four times, three of those against Wilson. In Friday’s appearance against Sabathia, he struck out four more times, the first two against the Yankee lefty.

So it was no small wonder then that A’s manager Bob Melvin moved Smith down to the eighth spot in the batting order against Pettitte Sunday. That was a testament to his struggles of late. He’d hit third against Wilson, second against Sabathia.

But Smith was in the lineup when two other lefties who have seen time against left-handed starters, first baseman Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick, were given the day off.  That was a testament to Smith’s overall success this year.

Smith was, in fact, the only left-hander in the A’s lineup Sunday.

“He feels a lot better today. He’s had a little throat (illness),’’ Melvin said. “Whether that’s affected him or not, I don’t know. But based on our lefties, he’s the guy that has the best numbers. He’ll take a bad swing every now and then, but he’s able to regroup.’’

The strikeouts don’t appear to have negatively impacted Smith. That despite the fact he struck out four times in a game just once last season.

“I think my swing has been good,’’ he said. “I just need to see the ball a little better. This place (Yankee Stadium) can be tough for that. But I feel OK up there.’’

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.