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July 16, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Some work finally pays off for younger Mariners hitters

One game doesn’t make a season and surely we’ll need to see more out of both Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak than just a few hard-hit balls off some bad Kansas City Royals pitching before pronouncing them “cured” of anything.
But for all the criticism we’ve thrown their way, it was nice to see them start to do some things right tonght in a 9-4 win over the Kansas City Royals.
Ackley had that long home run the opposite way to left center, as well as an earlier single and a hard lineout in the eighth. Smoak had the two-run homer off Jonathan Sanchez and a lineout later on in the game he said was about the hardest he’s hit the ball all year from the right side of the plate.
Hey, it beats the .199 batting average Smoak took with him into the game.
“If I keep having good at-bats and keep squaring the ball up, it’s only a matter of time before good things happen for you,” Smoak said.
Ackley has been talking for a while now about carrying his batting practice swings over to game situations. He said tonight was the closest he’s come yet to doing just that.
“I feel like everything’s just more relaxed and more calm,” said Ackley, who also had a second-inning single. “I’ve gotten in trouble a lot in the first half with being out in front and not hitting on a firm front side. And I think today was probably the best job I’ve done of that all year.”

Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he liked the way his hitters jumped all over some Jonathan Sanchez fastballs early in the game. Sanchez lasted just four outs and the Mariners posted their biggest first inning since May 12, 2008 (a game they lost in Texas, by the way).
“We’ve been talking about it,” Wedge said. “If you’re going to be a good big league hitter, you’ve got to be able to turn around a fastball. And I don’t just mean pull it. You’ve got to be able to meet it where it needs to be met in the hitting zone and just drive it.
“We did it a lot tonight. We had our 10 hits, or whatever it was and scored our nine runs. But again, we had maybe seven or eight hard outs as well on top of that.”
Wedge said some of it carried over from Safeco Field, where the team had hit into some harder outs on Sunday.
“A carry over is what you want to see,” Wedge said. “Because when you don’t get benefitted from hitting the ball hard like we did yesterday, you still need to come out here and work to hit the ball hard today and know that the runs will come.”
Jesus Montero, another young hitter struggling the past two months, kicked in a double and a single.
And of course, Casper Wells tied his career high with five RBI his first two at-bats with a home run and a triple. Wells continues to improve while getting the chance to play every day. In addition to the hitting tonight, he threw a tagging Yuniesky Betancourt out at third base after a catch in left field in the third.
“It’s allowed me to have a consistent approach, not do too much at the plate and be a little more relaxed,” Wells said of playing daily. “Just knowing that you’ll get a chance to play, righties and lefties alike. I think it just made me really dial in to having a consistent mindset, a consistent approach at the plate. As opposed to before, when I was just playing against lefties.”

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