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April 27, 2011 at 8:57 PM

Mariners suddenly have a middle and top of the order

Well, it looks like the Mariners have changed somewhat on offense from when we last discussed this topic about 48 hours ago. And it’s a good thing, too. Now, we’ll see whether this is a permanent thing or a Detroit Tigers kind of thing.
But they took it to Justin Verlander tonight and he’s no slouch.
So, that’s a positive development. We’ve seen 17 runs scored in two games. Not 13 runs in one game, mind you, but 17 in two is still an improvement over 78 in the first 23 contests.
Why is this happening?
Well, it helps when the other team makes four errors and offers up no bullpen help to speak of. But then again, the M’s came through with hits in that ninth inning. It wasn’t really opposition errors doing the trick.
What we’ve seen is that the luck factor we’ve talked about for the past week-plus with two guys — Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo — is finally turning in positive fashion for the Mariners. Both guys, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, had hit the ball hard and deserved better than their stat lines.
And now, after a couple of balls dropped in last night, they were dropping in again tonight.
So, what you’ve got now is a top of the order where Figgins reached five times tonight and he and Ichiro got on a combined seven times.
Then, you’ve got a middle of the order where the clean-up hitter — Olivo — added three more hits and a deep sacrifice fly tonight. That’s five hits in two games here for Olivo after he’d managed just 10 all season prior.
And there is no magical explanation. He’s hitting the ball hard like he had been before. Only now, those balls are dropping in.
Oh yeah, there’s also that Justin Smoak kid.

Smoak keeps popping home runs the way real middle-of-the-order hitters on good teams do. You’re not supposed to get one or two home runs total per week in the majors as a team. Some teams count on one or two per night.
His big struggles last year came against left-handers. This year, he’s pounding lefties, but had hit only .185 off right-handers coming in.
I asked Smoak about whether the fact his team has faced so many lefties early has made it tougher for him to bat from the left side against righties.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You’ve got to keep putting as much work in on one side as you do the other, so hopefully, it will click there soon.”
Well, it clicked tonight. Smoak went up there looking for a Verlander fastball, got it, and sent it 405 feet over the wall.
So, what you’ve got here is a middle of the order that’s driving in the top of the order.
All of a sudden, voila, a respectable offense.
It’s a welcome development if you’re a Mariners fan. And the good news is, it can be sustained if these guys keep hitting the ball hard.
But that’s a big if. We’ll see how it continues.
Jack Cust struck out four more times tonight before finally doubling the opposite way in his final at-bat. That was nice to see. But if Cust is batting fouth tonight, you maybe don’t get a bunch of the runs the M’s scored.
The way Erik Bedard pitched, it probably didn’t matter, but it was still nice to see.
The M’s still have a ways to go. Even with this two-day outburst, they’re still averaging below four runs per game.
But this was an important road trip for them, in more hitter-friendly parks with warmer weather than in Seattle. So far, they’ve responded. It’s been a great start.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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