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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 18, 2012 at 11:48 PM

Mariners starting to look a little more like what Eric Wedge wanted them to at plate last year

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Tonight, we saw the Mariners work starter Derek Lowe for 113 pitches and six walks through 4 1/3 innings. It was only the second time in Lowe’s career that he’d walked at least six batters and that says something.
Not only did the Mariners take pitches tonight in their 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians, they also punished Lowe at times. It was the same as what the M’s did with Justin Masterson last night in the big fourth inning.
A bunch of hits, but also some walks taken when the pitches weren’t there to square up on.
And that is exactly what Wedge has been preaching since last year: hitters going to the plate in “attack mode” but knowing when to lay off and take the walks when the hits just aren’t there.
“When it all settles in and these guys start to really mesh together,” he said, “we’re going to see more pitches, we’re going to draw more walks and we’re going to strike out less. All of those really work together when you talk about getting on base and creating more opportunities for yourselves.”
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This is a marked difference from what we saw a year ago, when the Mariners were drawing tons of walks without hitting. They had eight hits tonight — including two home runs from Chone Figgins and Ichiro — while also taking the walks when needed. They didn’t seem to be going up there trying to work walks.
Now, it’s still not time to pop any corks. They had 15 baserunners tonight and two homers, yet still only managed four runs. This game was far closer than it should have been, with the M’s seemingly in control throughout.
“We did a good job again of creating opportunities,” Wedge said. “We still need to do a better job with runners on third base and less than two out. We let some opportunities slip away that would have allowed us to separate a bit more.”
So, a work in progress. But these were two quality pitchers the M’s worked right out of the ballgame the last two nights and that’s worth some applause.
Figgins and Ichiro both have put up early numbers that don’t exactly dazzle. But I mentioned the higher line drive rate for Figgins in yesterday’s paper and Ichiro has been in much the same boat. The difference is, not all of their liners have been dropping in for hits. You wait and hope that some of them will.
“I just have to stick with the approach,” Figgins said, before adding that: “For some reason, when I’m battling in the count I have more success. Versus being up in the count and being too aggressive.”
That’s been true so far in a limited sample size. Figgins had been 0-for-8 this season combined when the count was either 2-1, 3-1 or full prior to going deep off Lowe on a 3-2 offering.
But Figgins had also been 2-for-6 (.333) with the count 1-2 and 5-for-13 (.385) when it’s 2-2. He swears it’s nothing intentional.
“I’ve always been able to bear down with two strikes because then I’m not thinking ‘Do I pull it? Do I hit it up the middle?’ ” Figgins said. “Versus just reacting and swinging. If it’s in the heart of the plate I’m going to put a good swing on it.”
He later chuckled and said: “For me to think about driving a ball, it’s too difficult.”
Yes indeed. Figgins homered on opening day of last season, but didn’t add to it until now. His only prior homer for the Mariners came in July 2010.
So, both he and Ichiro going deep on the same night was something to see. By the way, Figgins is now hitting .260 with a .721 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Like I’ve been saying, it’s still very, very early. A couple of good nights can turn a guy’s numbers completely around.
Dustin Ackley getting the two singles tonight was also a welcome sign.
Few saw it, but if the Mariners continue to develop their plate approach to the point where they can both attack and lay off, they might draw more paying customers at some point.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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