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April 26, 2011 at 9:21 PM

Luck rears its welcome head for some snakebitten Mariners hitters

We’ve had this discussion for a while now, so I’m not going to repeat all of the gory details. But many of the Mariners trotting out Mendoza-line numbers and worse have been victims of more than just bad hitting.
Luck has not shone on the 2011 version of the Mariners so far. Until that is, a Miguel Olivo line drive deflected off the glove of Ryan Raburn in tonight’s second inning and bounced some 15 to 20 feet over the fence. A whole lot of stuff began going Seattle’s way after that in a 7-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Yeah, that takes luck. Don’t believe me? Ask Olivo.
“When the ball hit his glove, I thought he caught it,” Olivo said. “It was so obvious. All the balls I hit, everybody catches them. Then, I saw the second base umpire doing the home run signal and I said ‘Thank God! My luck is coming back.’ ”
Olivo mentioned God and luck a few times tonight in discussing that long-awaited break he’d sought. We keep mentioning his line drive rate and that he’d been hitting the ball hard even with that .164 batting average coming in.
Well, tonight, the luck went his way. He got the home run and then another line drive that went for a double.
You don’t often see a .164 hitter with zero home runs being pencilled is as the clean-up batter. But Eric Wedge has seen the exact same thing from Olivo — good at-bats resulting in hard-hit balls — and knew the luck was bound to change.
“We’re working to get better offensively,” Wedge said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are really grinding and working offensively to put up better at-bats and we did that tonight.”
Olivo was working as hard as anyone. Wedge figures that Olivo finally seeing some results will pay off in the long run.
“That’s what it takes,” Wedge said. “Even tonight we made some hard outs. We made some hard outs up and down the lineup. That’s what you’ve been seeing from Miguel and that’s what you’ve been seeing from Figgins, too.”


Yes, we’ve talked at great length about Figgins and his line drive rate and all of his hard-hit balls that keep getting caught.
Well, today, he hit that line drive to center and Austin Jackson couldn’t catch up to it. Figgins said he didn’t breathe easy until he saw the numbers on Jackson’s back and realized the ball was going over his head.
Figgins wound up with a two-run triple.
The thing is, Figgins admitted afterwards that, after an early lineout, he switched his approach for a second at-bat and popped out to shallow right. For the next AB, he reverted back to what had been working and was rewarded with the triple.
“I hadn’t hit a triple in so long that I was tired,” Figgins said.
Funny that he’d change approaches, though, since Figgins has always told me he thinks it’s best to stick with what’s getting you hard-hit balls. But the fact even he’d break with his personal belief system shows you how difficult it is for guys struggling mightily to keep faith in themselves.
Wedge had expressed some fear about this pre-game. He said he’s continued to implore to his players that they must make productive outs and not give away at-bats. Sounded like he was worried that self-doubt was going to thwart any progress some of his hitters have made.
“I want them to make better outs,” Wedge said. “I know some people probably roll their eyes when I say that, but I want you to get something from those outs. I want to make progress with those outs. And I think the approach and the mindset and ultimately your confidence level comes right along with that.
“What I don’t want to see is for us to keep spinning our wheels.Hell, man, that’s not what we’re going to do here. If anything upsets me more than anything, it’s when we spin our wheels. When we do the same thing over and over again, whether it be as a team, or different areas of our club or different individuals.
“So, what I want to see us do is make progress with our outs.”
And Wedge felt his team made tougher outs tonight.
Jack Cust finally got a hit in his final at-bat. Wedge has a pre-game talk with him before dropping him down to No. 6. Wedge has seen the signs of a struggling hitter in Cust, like a lefty who keeps pulling grounders to the right side.
Cust had three balls hit to the right side today. Wedge said he’ll be at his best when he starts hitting balls in the air to the middle of the field and away– as he has in the past. It’s not happening yet.
“He;s going to be OK,” Wedge said. “We just need him to get there.”
Olivo and Figgins have felt like they’re getting there for a while now, so this was progress tonight.
“That’s something we’ve talked about, me and him,” Figgins said. “We’ve been going through it for a while. And after he hit it I said ‘Man, you’re in a different category now, because your break was off his glove.’ ”
Olivo said he’d never seen a home run hit a glove and go over a fence like that — except for Jose Canseco and the ball that deflected off his head and over the wall.
He’ll take it. Olivo was the first to greet Justin Smoak at home plate after his homer tonight and told him “That’s for Papa.”
Olivo stressed the need for the M’s to stick together like family, through good and bad times as they try to make their own luck. Tonight, they had some on their side. Tomorrow? Who knows?
They’ll take it where they can get it.

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