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M's Notes: Ackley still a work in progress

Struggles persist, but M's outfielder has solid outing on Sunday

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By Ryan Divish
The News Tribune
HOUSTON -- It isn't going to happen overnight, but Dustin Ackley is slowly trying to find the hitting stroke that once made him one of the Seattle Mariners' prized prospects.
After being demoted to Class AAA in May and converting to the outfield, Ackley is fighting his way back to being a big-league hitter.
Sunday offered a glimmer of hope in that resurgence. Ackley went 3-for-4 with two RBI in the Mariners' 12-5 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
He started the Mariners' seven-run second inning with a hard infield single up the middle with the bases loaded to drive in the first run. Ackley is now hitting .583 (14-for-24) with the bases loaded in his career.
He came into the game hitting just .204 (10-for-49) since his return. He was hitting .205 when he was sent down on May 27. But Mariners manager Eric Wedge believes things are getting better.
"I think he's starting to be rewarded," Wedge said. "I thought he had a lot of hard outs early on. But he's finding some holes now. He's on top of the ball better, especially the other way. That's a good indicator for him, getting on top of those line drives he's hitting to left field."
Ackley feels like his luck is starting to change.
"Over the last couple days especially, balls I'm squaring up are finding holes and finding the outfield," he said. "That's always a confidence booster. When a team is rolling like this, that's another important thing, too."
He almost had four hits. His hard sinking liner in the fifth inning was caught by a diving Marc Krauss in left field. It still resulted in a sacrifice fly as Kyle Seager made a heady play to get back to the base, tag up and score.
"That guy made a pretty good play," Ackley said. "Fortunately Seager was on third and made a nice base-running play and tagged right there."
Luetge comes home
A good portion of the 38,838 fans in attendance at Minute Maid Park had already dispersed when Seattle's Lucas Luetge jogged in from the bullpen to pitch the eighth inning. But a small cheer arose from the stands for Luetge, a native of nearby Industry, Texas, a town of less than 1,000 people.
"I could hear the little cheers in the background," he said. "So it made me feel pretty special having everyone here."
Besides his mother and father and two brothers, several people from the town made the short trip to Houston.
"It was quite a big group," he said. "We had charter buses from a couple of the local banks. And some of my family didn't get to make it because they went the last two days. But I would guess 40 to 50 people. Maybe more. I don't know."
Luetge had large fan contingents for the first two games in Houston, but never saw the field.
"That's the thing I always tell them," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to get to pitch or not. I hope I do. And I'm glad I did. There were a lot of runs and I'm glad I got some work because I haven't pitched in a while."
Luetge looked sharp, working a 1-2-3 inning, striking out Chris Carter and Carlos Corporan. He wanted to pitch well in front of all those familiar faces.
"I'm out there and I'm definitely thinking about it," he said. "When I got that last strikeout and came in and they told me I was done, it was kind of a sigh of a relief. I did good in front of them. You want to do good. A lot of those people don't get to come see me. My parents get to watch every game. But a lot of the other people just see the stat line."
It was the first time Luetge pitched in Houston this season. He wasn't with the Mariners in April's trip. So there was some distraction with all the ticket requests and people wanting to talk to him. He hopes it will become a little more normal next time.
"This was the first time in Houston for me," he said. "It was a little crazier for me, staying out there a little longer and meeting with people and taking pictures. The more and more I come back it will get easier -- a little more calm."
Story tags » Mariners

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