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April 26, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Chone Figgins says hits will come as they did today

During post-game interviews, I asked Chone Figgins whether he felt any “urgency” to get the strikeouts and pitch-chasing parts of his game rectified. He sort of winced at me, then smiled and said, half-laughing: “It’s never a case of urgency. Like the first night here. I’m still getting my walks. For me, it’s either ‘Hit a ball hard’ and if you’re not swinging a bat, you still walk. I’ve always been like that. I stick with that and things get better.
“And I’ve stuck with it and I ended up having a good game,” he said. “So, keep sticking with it.”
We’ve been saying over and over again that it’s early and it seems the players figure that too. Figgins now has a batting average of .236 and an on base percentage of .309. Nothing great, but loads better than it was two days ago. In his mind, he got away from some of his fundamentals for a week or so on the last home stand, which is why he leads the team with 21 strikeouts.
He’s been chasing after some pitches he normally doesn’t fall for since the season began, but then, last week, he really wasn’t seek anything good to hit and instead of taking his walks he chased even more.
Today, he got back to some more of the fundamentals that had been working for him. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said after the game that Figgins has clearly hit the ball much harder this year — when it’s inside his hitting zone.
Again, the problem has been when he goes hunting. The key to his success will be staying more disciplined, recognizing stuff he can’t hit and laying off. That should cut down on the whiffs. If his walks go up, his OBP looks like it will be fine because the contact he is making on hit-worthy pitches should result in more of what we saw today.

Looking back on that ninth inning, I can’t move on without mentioning one game saving play by Alex Liddi, who managed to knock down a one-out single and keep it from shooting past the third base bag with a runner already on.
If that ball gets by Liddi you’re looking at a double and the Mariners not only blow the lead but probably lose the game. Instead, Liddi kept the ball in the infield, leaving runners on first and second.
Brandon League then got a huge double play grounder from Alex Avila to end the game.
Great job by the bullpen despite some nervous moments. They bent, but did not break.
Turns out manager Wedge and bench coach Robby Thompson had told Liddi to shade a bit closer to the third base bag prior to knocking down that single. They didn’t want him all the way over because they were playing for the win and didn’t want to give up a possible tie score by letting singles get through to his left.
At the same time, they also didn’t want to lose the game by having somebody rip a double down the left field line.
So, they played it halfway and the partial shade got Liddi positioned just enough. Wedge said his biggest fear was that Liddi would actually try to throw to first and risk an error on a ball that was clearly going to result in a hit. But while Liddi came up pumping, it was only to bluff the runner at second into straying from his bag.
Sometimes, the little things like defensive positioning help win ball games.
That’s three in a row for the Mariners, who did most things right today.

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